It’s that time of year again, the beginning of the academic year. New students are flooding the halls of Universities around the UK. This year there has been an increased focus on mental health and how students manage it. In recent years there has been mounting concern over suicide amongst the student population. Maintaining mental health at University for any student can be a challenge with a culture of late night study sessions, caffeine and alcohol consumed, often, in vast amounts and sketchy diets. For those who have previously or currently attempt to navigate life with pre-existing conditions, it can be like walking a tightrope.
The critical thing to remember is that every student experience is different. We are all different. We all have different needs and lifestyles. Personally, I have never invested myself in the ‘traditional’ student lifestyle. I don’t drink, experiment with drugs and I’m rarely up past 11pm. This, in part, is simply because as a student, or human being with ADHD, Dyslexia, Depression and Anxiety, I can’t function. It’s also because I am very socially anxious and struggle to connect and mix with other students. My focus is my work, and that is complimented with Yoga, Football, early nights and a reasonably healthy diet where possible. So I am far from a ‘traditional’ student. But who is?
My first experience of University came in 2011, which feels like a very long time ago, I eventually dropped out in early 2014. From the very beginning, I struggled, this was reflective of my school years as someone who didn’t even know they had Dyslexia nevermind ADHD. Throughout that initial experience, I never thought I would be able to keep up with my peers, my grades were, and the quality of my work was almost, but I was just doing what I could. Fast forward three years and I was back, in the same university and department but this time I am aware of my Dyslexia, ADHD, Anxiety and Depression and I know how to manage and look after myself. This has enabled me to turn my grades around and engage in a way I previously never thought possible.
The most important advice I would give any student throughout their time at University is simple. Talk and engage with your tutors, lecturers and University staff. They are there to support you through what can be some intense times. The vast majority of the University team want to and are more than willing to chat, support and point you in the right direction. Through school, we are often taught in a way that is overly strict and makes us fear the teacher figure, and that is causing continued fear which in turn means a lot of students hideaway, ignore problems and are too scared to seek support. I would encourage any student with any problem big or small, be it not understanding a particular aspect of the course, money problems, personal problems or just need a chat, reach out to someone at the university.
If that feels impossible, you can always contact Samaritans on 116 123 any time, from any phone for free. Further advice and support on mental health and wellbeing can be found on the Mind or Rethink website.