Everyone always tells us: University is the best time of your life! We are constantly reminded: these are the days we will look back upon and think… ‘we had it easy’. For some of us this may well be the case, fond memories of hazy days spent playing sport, laughing callously at troubles and partying without regret. But, this is not the care free, hedonistic experience shared by all students of Durham University. Some of us are living on the flip side of ‘the bubble’ – the side no-one ever talks about. What is like for students who find themselves outside the student bubble? For some amongst us, perhaps many more than we can measure empirically- there is one slight, teeny tiny problem stopping them from running out of the house in the morning or throwing themselves into the vivacious Durham student bubble head first. Their mind. Because, the Durham Bubble, in its all-encompassing nature, is just as hard to enter as it is to leave. So much so, that the word ‘bubble’ that circulates so often in conversation is not really so easy to pop as the metaphor suggests.
University life for some is a trap, we are not yet in the real world but we can never go back to the innocence and naivety that we knew before we arrived in Fresher’s week. Social anxiety and depression at University is something which can fall of the radar of institutions and friendship circles, because it is so often and so easily interpreted as laziness. According to a recent report by the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2015, 54% of those with mental illnesses at University do not seek support. In light of this worrying statistic, The Bubble has taken a look at the organisations at Durham University which seek to provide mental health support, in order to determine whether we are doing enough to be a compassionate university, one who can recognise that living with mental illness is both real and challenging, and who can also encourage a forum whereby we can support one another. As an institution and a city, there is an inherent duty of care which belongs to all who are members. We need to highlight real solutions so that victims of invisible illnesses feel that their everyday struggles are acknowledged and supported. Students at Durham University should not be alienated and misunderstood because of an illness they cannot determine.
Firstly, the challenges to tackling mental health within universities across the country and not just at Durham, are rooted in the invisibility of mental health. But if we speak about it in open forums we can ultimately transform an ‘invisible illness’ into one which is understood, acknowledged and as a result: visible. One way of achieving this is through organisations like Nightline, which encourages dialogue with those who may be suffering as a result of their mental health. However, we also need to bring this dialogue onto a more public platform.
Durham is, therefore, not an uncompassionate city. The Christian presence certainly provides a great deal of support to students and there are many highly active student bodies seeking to tackle the issue of mental health. However, it is still an issue for many whom support does not reach. We need to recognise how Durham University can be exclusive, and how some people will have negative experiences of ‘the bubble’. This can only really be achieved, at an individual, highly localised level, to take notice of and support those around us.