University is the time of self-discovery, experimenting with veganism and, of course, not quite keeping up with your reading lists. There is time for clubbing, drinking, socialising, or if you prefer, a quiet knitting circle and juggling on the Meadows. Yes, university has something for everyone … so why are you not enjoying it?
Now that Facebook is no longer saturated with Camp America pictures, it is time to feel inadequate – term time edition: your dashboard becomes a stream of group photos at Hive or at the top of Arthur’s Seat while you’re in bed watching Bread Week on The Great British Bake Off for the fourth time.
We all come to university with preconceived notions and expectations about the stereotypical student experience, and when added to our generation’s perpetual fear of missing out, we inevitably shrink under the pressure to be having a good time. It is common knowledge that university is hard, so why are we not talking about how many young people are struggling or even suffering from mental health issues due to the pressures placed on students?
Universities are prioritising funding for mental health facilities on campus to tackle (or at least help with) the increasing number of cases of depression and anxiety among students. Eight out of 10 students said they experienced mental health issues in the past year, and a third thought about suicide. This is not news, so why do we continually put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best student?
In reality, being a student at the University of Edinburgh is not easy, and it involves social and academic pressures. However, we now have the opportunity to discuss our issues and our struggles, and change how we view mental health at university.
There are several easy ways to lift your mood and cope with feelings of depression. Going for a walk by yourself is the first. Take time to be alone and reflect on how you feel. The fresh air and exercise will do your mental health good, and it is a break from exam or coursework stresses. It is common knowledge that exercise releases endorphins improving your general mood, so even if you cannot face the gym at Pleasance, a long walk will make a huge improvement. Listen to all the people around you, eavesdrop on the gossip and definitely pet a dog.
Personal hygiene slips in depression, so feeling clean and refreshed is the start to a better day; shower regularly, brush your teeth and wear clean clothes. Keep your room tidy and organised because it will allow you to have a quiet and relaxing space, as well as helping you to concentrate on your work.
The next one might not be so easy: turn off Facebook. Social media is capable of irreparable damage to young people’s mental health, and is the first thing you should give up. There are studies upon studies proving that Facebook can trap young people into a depressive mood, and so quitting will be the first step in improving your mental health. If you feel the pressure to be having a good time and to experience the ‘typical’ student life, then reducing your social media usage will be a breath of fresh air and a chance to experience the true reality.
The University of Edinburgh has a lot to offer students who are struggling with mental ill health, including free counselling, free access to online forums and support with exams and coursework. If you ever feel as though you are experiencing mental health issues, it is important to let your personal tutor know – even if it seems like the most uncomfortable conversation to have, once it is over, you will have access to so much help and support.
University is hard; so much harder than anyone prepared us for. There are pressures for every insecurity, and they come out when you are most vulnerable. However, happiness is not the default emotion, it is normal to find university tough. Look after yourself and seek help – tell your doctor, go to your personal tutor and talk to your friends – and lastly, stay off Facebook!
[Image: Pixabay @ Public Domain Images]