Mental health in students: an overview and where to seek help

Movember is over now but that doesn’t make the topic of mental health any less important. Khadija Aminu-Saad offers some insight and advice on mental health in students.

Mental health issues are very common amongst university students. They are, in a way, more likely to face several mental health challenges. From leaving home and trying to adjust to the hectic life of university, to being overwhelmed by coursework and deadlines. From having to balance part time work and university and experiencing personal issues at home, to those who have children and are trying to balance out family life and their studies. There are many other examples, but only very few students actually seek help. 

According to Mental Health First Aid England, mental health issues are a broad term that includes experiences which might not qualify for a diagnosis, as well as diagnosed illnesses. Mental health influences how we think and how we behave; it affects our normal day-to-day activities, often leaving us feeling ‘low’. Mental health is not stable and a lot of the time, a person’s mental state is constantly changing; a person could move from being 100% active to being 0% active in the blink of an eye. Bear in mind, mental health is not the same as mental illness. 

If we consider what influences mental health, we would probably be thinking of: 

  • Self-esteem: the way we place ourselves, our image and what people expect of us. Trying to fit in and be what society wants us to be can be very daunting and can easily overpower a person, taking over their mental health. 
  • Family loss: the loss of a family member can be very heart-breaking and extremely painful. Finding a way to cope through it can be hard for a lot of people, not everyone manages to get themselves up after this awful situation. 
  • Physical health: if a person’s physical health is poor, it can easily affect the person’s self-esteem and ability to do what they would normally do. This could easily result in unhappy days or even depression. 
  • Abuse: sexual, physical, substance or even verbal abuse can really take a toll over a person’s mental health. Especially a person who is not getting any help to overcome them; they are more likely to experience some form of mental health issue. 
  • Stress: anything that is demanded by the brain and body can easily emotionally strain a person. Poor diet, lack of routine, student loan debts, increased tuition fees, coursework deadlines, university issues, moving out etc. are a few examples. All these can amount to stress and can easily put a person into a depressive mood. 

These are common issues that affect university students. It is important to note a lot of people use unhealthy and unhelpful coping mechanisms to get through these issues such as drugs, drinking, working excessively, isolating oneself and more. Although these might seem to be a good coping mechanisms, it is possible to learn new healthy coping strategies. Most of these can be gained through the help someone seeks from a trusted and authorised person. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation; “in 2015/16, over 15,000 first-year students in UK universities reported that they had a mental health problem, compared to approximately 3,000 in 2006.” Despite the increase every year, very little seek for help or treatment. This is especially the case for male students, who are less likely to seek help compared to female students. There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding men’s mental health. The general idea is that men are strong and need to ‘show no weaknesses’. There is a strong stigma attached to mental health in society. Based on statistics, 9/10 people have said they suffered from stigma and discrimination that have had a negative effect on their lives. 

If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out to someone or help the person you know that is in need to do the same. No matter how bad you feel and think no one will listen or understand you, there is always someone. The University offers a wide range of resources available for students to use: 

The Student Wellbeing Team are available to ensure students receive all the support and help they need. To speak to the student wellbeing about anything, you can attend a drop-in session at the Student Services Hub, Silberrad Student Centre, from 9:30-4.00, Monday to Friday. 

SU Advice is also available to advise students on anything. Their office is located on square 3, 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday. To book an appointment email;

RA’s are available to support students on welfare support, general issues and will be able to signpost students on where to get further help. They are also available just for a friendly chat if you need someone to talk to;  

Chat with Charlie is an online mental health support also available for students at the University of Essex, it can accessed between 6pm- 10pm; . 

The Samaritans offer 24 hours call service to someone who is going through a personal crisis and wanting to talk about their despair. There is always someone to talk to;

Samaritans local helpline: 01245 357357. 

Samaritans national helpline: 116 123. 

This is information you can use to talk to someone. Get the help you need, once you speak to someone, it can start getting better

Feature image by Natasha Spencer on Unsplash

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