It was #TimetoTalk day on the 5th February. A day where everyone should have taken 5 minutes to talk about mental health to combat stigma. Ill mental health has a lot of stigma attached to it. People are called ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, ‘crackers’ and a lot more. These words are thrown around without a care. People throw terms such as ‘schizy’ around and it is damaging. It hurts people. Remember the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?’. Well they do. Words can have just as big an effect if not more than actions. It can damage a person emotionally and can lead to horrible things. I’m going to talk about student mental health. Some of you may know that I have anxiety and OCD. I’m more so on the anxiety side now, as I’m recovering well. Anyway, 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental health issues at some point in our lives. There are a lot of students meaning many will have a diagnosed or hidden mental health problem. Because of the stigma some students don’t talk about their mental health. And they should.
Being a student and the transition to university is difficult. Some students may develop mental health problems whilst at university or some may come to university with mental health problems – both need to be recognised. Individuals need to be supported by their university. There are a lot of people within a university that a student can speak to – a counsellor, one of their lecturers, their personal tutor, the student’s union and many more. You can confide in anyone. It is scary of course, but it is important to get help. No-one wants a student to drop out because they feel they can’t cope. Support can be tailored to the individual.
It is so easy to get wound up by the pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself because of my anxiety and because of my personality. It is so easy to get stressed too, though thankfully I haven’t reached that point, dare I say…yet. Student’s have a lot of pressure put on them – essay deadlines, social life, extra-curricular activities, the ‘need’ to find a job, missing home, family and a lot more. It is a lot even for the most organised and able student to take on.
So what should you do if you don’t feel like yourself? Talk to someone. Someone will listen. They won’t laugh at you or not believe you. People in university are trained and can help you with your issues. Nothing is too silly.
Society needs to stand up and fight the stigma – we wouldn’t do it to someone who has physical health problems, so why do it to someone who has mental health problems. Ill mental health is an invisible illness, most of the time, but it does not mean that it should be ignored. You can’t walk down the street and spot someone with mental health problems that easily. Take time to talk to someone, ask someone if they are okay and let them know that you are there for them. It can make the world of difference. Why not try it today? It doesn’t need to be #TimetoTalk day to initiate a conversation about mental health. Student’s have ill mental health too and it is only going get worse if the stigma is there and the support isn’t. Am I right?
Ask your students or a student or anyone you know how they are? One question can spark a whole conversation and get them the support that they need.