Mental Health: put yourself first.

There's help here if you need it.

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Photograph: Snosons

In recent years mental health has become a topic we, as a society, are more open to discussing, yet those people who are struggling with emotional distress still feel the need to hide or ignore the issues they are facing. Approximately 44% of students admit to struggling with feelings of isolation and 36% are struggling financially which has led to the highest number of students dropping out before the end of their course in recent years.

With the new academic year comes a brand new set of students, most of whom will be facing the pressure of being almost entirely independent for the first time in their lives. Dealing with an unfamiliar environment/people, coupled with new responsibilities such as managing your own finances can quickly add up, leaving students feeling anxious, scared and alone. That said, a recent study has found that 9 in 10 first year students struggle with the social and academic pressures of university life (this is often debt and lack of success socially/academically making students feel inadequate). However, while it may seem like you are the only one experiencing these thoughts and feelings, I can guarantee that if you talk to almost anyone around you they are feeling something similar, even if they appear to be doing spectacularly.

Admitting that you are struggling is not a sign of weakness, it takes strength to admit your downfalls and seek help. Even if you don’t want to talk to someone you know, there are many other options. Lancaster University offers free counselling. To make an appointment you can find the email address of your college welfare officer on the Lancaster University website by simply searching “Wellbeing service”. Beyond the college system every night of term from 10pm-8am Lancaster Nightline, a confidential listening and information service, is available to all students of Lancaster University. Here you are free to say what you wish without fear of judgment or criticism.

The best thing you can do in a situation where you find yourself being weighed down by the pressures of life is get it off your chest. Allowing your thoughts to run rampant and feelings of anxiety to snowball is not healthy and so utilising one of these services is a great way to begin dealing with your emotions. If you fear that someone you know is not coping with the pressures of university life, be patient and take the time to be there, ready to listen when they are ready to talk. If you fear that they may be in serious trouble do not hesitate to contact the welfare officers, or in cases of immediate danger calling 999 from any university landline will immediately put you in contact with college security.

The framework to improve the overall wellbeing of student society is in place but we must not shy away from using the services available to us out of fear or embarrassment. With all of the pressures of university, the one thing that every student needs to remember is that your wellbeing and happiness along with that of the people around you should always come first.