If you have experienced any of the symptoms commonly associated with mental health issues, you are certainly not alone. 1 in 4 of us may experience this during our lifetime and it can be particularly acute for students, living independently for the first time without the emotional support of family and friends.
What is mental health?
The World Health Organisation describe mental health as a ‘state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’ For many of us, daily life is a struggle and for many students there is what probably feels like incredible pressure to succeed, defined by your degree classification and ultimately the status of your career. You do not have to accept that disrupted sleep, anxiety, periods of depression and stress are the price you must reluctantly pay to survive at university. There is advice and support available to help you address these issues.
Well-being is becoming increasingly important
Employers and the world of business have recognised how important well-being is in terms of developing and maintaining the health, job satisfaction and productivity of their staff. Employers across a variety of industries, both public and private now offer ’employee assistance programmes’ that offer confidential support services. If you are concerned how a period of depression for example, may impact on future job applications you may be pleasantly surprised how understanding and sensitive an employer may be. It is your decision whether or not to tell an employer if you have experienced a mental health issue If you are a Warwick finalist there is an opportunity to discuss your career planning and well-being on June 28th
Empathy and understanding
Society’s reluctance to recognise or even discuss mental health is changing. There is an increasing acceptance that mental health issues should be treated with the same sympathy and understanding as a physical illness. Admitting that you have a problem that you may not be able to resolve on your own may feel extremely uncomfortable and challenging. But this should not be seen as a weakness or that you have failed in some way. All of us are susceptible to mental health issues and talking is an important first step to helping you move forward. It may be that speaking to a friend or family member initially may help to provide a different perspective and help you to understand what you are experiencing.
Recognising the signs
How do you know if you are experiencing mental health issues? It is an extremely complex condition and generalisations are unhelpful. But there may be an indication of an underlying issue if you are, for example, suffering from:
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Anxiety to the extent that it prevents you functioning as you normally would
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Feeling low, demotivated and sad for a prolonged period of time
What should you do?
Talk to someone. At The University of Warwick the Mental Health and Well-Being Team provide a variety of information and support services, including a drop-in service . Where appropriate they may make referrals where a medical diagnosis or counselling, for example may be relevant. You could speak also your GP or your university’s counselling team – Warwick’s Counselling Service has an excellent reputation with 96% of users in 2015/16 saying that they would recommend it. Alternatively there are a variety of on-line support services
How counselling could help
Counselling can help you to adopt a different perspective, to re-frame your thinking and perhaps challenge that negative inner voice that can be so damaging. There are a variety of approaches all of which will develop a non-judgemental relationship between counsellor and client, founded on trust and empathy.
As difficult as it may feel to talk about or even acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing, remember that mental health issues are extremely common. They can affect any of us at any point in our lives so however challenging it feels, take that first step to seek help. You could start to feel so much better.