University and mental health

With the end of the first week of term coinciding with World Mental Health Day, it seems appropriate to take time to reflect on the issue of mental health at university. As university students, we’re sadly no strangers to mental health, with 57% percent of UK students in a 2020 study reporting a “worsening in their mental health and well-being” since the beginning of autumn term last year, an issue only exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

And yet, despite the prevalence of mental health issues at university, it is still not a frequently discussed topic, and experiencing trouble with mental health in what is already a tough environment can feel isolating. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to speak about mental health with university friends, but this wasn’t always a conversation I felt comfortable having in my first and second years. Freshers’ week in particular can be an overwhelming time as you find yourself confronted with a myriad of new pressures, new experiences and new people who, oftentimes, seem to be having the time of their lives. Even after freshers’ week is over, starting a new term at university can also bring up a whole host of feelings – imposter syndrome being one of them. I’ll admit that I didn’t even know the meaning of imposter syndrome upon arriving at Durham, so you can imagine the imposter syndrome I felt just from hearing it!

Having since spoken with friends about their experiences of starting university, I was surprised at how many were also finding things a bit much, and it turned out that more people were struggling than I had realised. On that note, if there’s anything that my aged fourth-year self can advise you, it’s that it’s OK to take a break, you do not have to be working 24/7, you do deserve to be here, you’re most certainly not alone, and it’s OK to ask for help. Oh, and SparkNotes is a lifesaver in a seminar (unless you study STEM, in which case, I’m afraid, it will likely be of no help at all). If at any point you find yourself in need of extra support this year, you can access pastoral support within your college, University counselling, NHS services, Samaritans, and Nightline, Durham University’s anonymous and confidential active listening service.

With that in mind, here are my editor’s picks for this week. Hopefully some of the following articles will come as a welcome distraction from the stress of a new term or even just as an alternative to some of those oh-so-lengthy lecture readings!

1. University sport: ‘welcome drinks’ by Megan Wilson

2. Cold War anniversaries: reassessing the legacy of the Long Telegram and Iron Curtain speech by Sally Holden

3. Moving to Durham: a fresh(er’s) perspective by Emily Walster

4. Is too much time spent on Shakespeare? by Fiona Steer

5. One for the World- ending extreme poverty by Helen Tyler-Cole

 

Featured image: Lizzy Aiton on The Bubble Photography & Illustration Drive.

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