Medication isn’t the only answer

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Image courtesy of Northstar IOP

Many people coming to university find it hard to keep taking any medication for mental health at regular intervals. You’re already trying to settle in a brand new city, make new friends and juggle the overwhelming amount of academic work. It’s hard to keep on track with medications, and many people decide to come off rather than carry on missing deadlines – if tablets aren’t taken regularly, they can often hinder moods more than not taking them at all. Other students who come to university unaware of underlying mental health issues also find themselves being recommended medication by their GP when they struggle to settle down in a new place without parents and childhood friends. There are many benefits to taking medication or going without, but ultimately the decision is down to you.

People often view medication as essential to managing mental health and they certainly can help to stabilise your mood. They motivate you and help you to get through the day, even when things may otherwise be tough. Sure, they come with some side effects, such as difficulty with sleeping, dizziness and nausea, but these often fade after a little while and don’t affect everyone – everyone is different and will react differently. If side effects do become too much, then a quick chat with your doctor can help you change to something more suitable.

Usually they take a couple of weeks to kick in properly, but once they do, many people swear by them and they can really help to keep everything at more manageable levels, letting you work towards a long-term solution.

But medication doesn’t work for everyone, nor does it have to, with many people tackling mental health without the use of tablets and doing just as well as those on them. Tablets are rarely used alone, often paired with therapy or other activities, so carrying on with these activities without medication can still help.

The benefits of exercise are often underrated and even a brisk walk every day can help with your mood. Fresh air really can do wonders, and staying cooped up in your room isn’t going to help anything. The best part is that there are plenty of squirrels scurrying around the trails across campus, so you can be accompanied along your walk by cute critters.

It’s also important to look after yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy, hobbies that you find pleasure in or activities you regularly do. You may not feel like it, but once you get around to doing them, you often feel better just for trying.

Therapy is also a choice that many people make to help themselves, and the university has a great service that allows you to self-refer. It can really help your mental health to talk to someone else or a group of people feeling the same way, and the techniques that you learn (especially with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can be used outside of sessions. You can work on them alone or with friends and family and they’re always applicable, not just in low moments, so they are very beneficial in the long run.

It’s worth keeping in mind that different things help for different people and these ideas won’t be universal. You need to work out what’s best for you and talk to people who can help you figure it out in your mind. Also, if you do decide to come off your medication, please talk to your doctor before doing so as they can tell you the best way to go about it without making yourself ill in the process. Professionals are there to help and will listen to your concerns, so don’t be afraid to talk to them.