Today is University Mental Health Day which is part of a campaign to support better student mental health. Obviously going to university can be an amazing experience but it can also be really hard and isolating. You might be far away from home, your friends and family. It may be the first time you have had to be self sufficient. It can take time to make friends. And so the list goes on. On the campaign website they talk about how time at university coincides with the peak age of onset for a range of mental health conditions which is obviously going to make things even harder.
Reading this made me think about my time at university & what helped me get through it. I was lucky I met people in halls in my first couple of days that became great friends and still are 20 years later. I had a school friend at a different university in the same city as me, which was a comforting connection to my home and familiarity. I love Liverpool Football Club and would go and watch all their home matches with my footie friends, who were another important community for me. There is something unique and special about being a football fan, you have an instant bond with other supporters of your team and a topic of banter with opposition team supporters. I made friends with people on my course and we helped each other with our studies. There were friends for going out with and others for having good chats with.
In halls I was exposed to more mental health conditions than I had ever encountered before. For some reason people have always been able to open up to me and in halls there was always a steady stream of visitors to my room where people knew they would get a friendly welcome, a cuppa and a shoulder to cry on. People used to tease me and say I should stick a list on my door with when I would be available so people could sign up for their counselling sessions. Little did I know then that these were the foundations for my career.
It is important that students go to university to learn about their degree subject but also how to take care of their own and others mental health. We need to continue breaking the taboo about mental health and encourage students and everyone we know to talk about how they feel and to ask for help. This is something we should all be doing every day as if students learn how to do this at university it will be a beneficial life skill.