Student depression is a serious and widespread issue and one that is all too frequently left out of the glossy brochures.
In the UK for instance, the number of students seeking counselling has risen steeply in recent years. A survey conducted in 2013 found that one in 10 students have experienced suicidal thoughts and around 40 percent had experienced feeling “worthless” or “hopeless.”
Life at university, even if you are in perfect health, can feel pretty daunting. For many of us this can be the very first time away from home apart from the odd sleepover. From the prospect of living with a messy group of strangers to finding the right lecture theatre on time, those first weeks at university can sometimes feel like a puzzle waiting to be solved. Issues such as mounting debt, exam stresses and the lurking prospect of adulthood can creep up on you when you least expect it.
For a young person with depression, there can be a whole different set of challenges to face, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have a positive experience of university life.
I suffered from depression whilst at university. But I also had some wonderful late night conversations, tried horse riding for the first time and battled my shyness by attending creative writing seminars. Although my depression impacted me greatly, I didn’t let it define me.
Here are seven things to bear in mind if you are currently suffering from depression at university:
1. Stay true to yourself and don’t make comparisons. It is easy to try and hide your anxiety behind a false persona of how you want to be seen, but in the long run this can damage your self esteem further. Don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing or what a “normal” university experience is. Remember that other people’s beaming Facebook pictures don’t always tell the full story of how they are feeling.
2. Surround yourself with positive people. I know from experience how depression can destroy your confidence and make you vulnerable to false friends. Spend your free time with kind and understanding people who appreciate you. There is nothing like having a like-minded, caring friend to keep you smiling during the difficult days.
3. Find out what help is available for you on campus. All reputable universities should have a supportive and easily-accessible counselling service. If you are able, then make sure that a trustworthy member of your department is aware of your condition so that adjustments can be made if necessary.
4. Be kind to yourself. By all means, involve yourself in fun campus activities, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like being the life and soul of the party. There is no shame at all in taking an evening for yourself with a mug of tea and your coziest blanket.
5. Take care of yourself. It’s all too easy in your first year to end up living off takeaways and fizzy drinks. As fun as post-exam pig outs can be, make sure to eat as much of a balanced diet as possible and keep hydrated with regular glasses of water. A healthy body can help stave off symptoms of mental illness.
6. Help tackle depression on a wider scale. University is a great time to begin lifelong activism and where better to start than with a topic that you can approach from a personal perspective. This could be anything from volunteering with a nighttime listening service to campaigning for better mental health awareness. Inform yourself of the political and social issues surrounding mental health and figure out your own opinions.
7. Be proud of yourself. Take a moment to remember what an amazing achievement it is to get into university and be considered capable of studying at such an advanced level. You’ve done this while faced with significant boundaries and this is perhaps even more incredible.
Good luck and remember you are not alone. Things can and do get better.
Author: Julia Banim
Apprentice Editor: Tameca L Coleman / Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Photo Vanova/Flickr