Thursday was Time to Talk Day 2018, a chance for us to speak openly about mental health, something that doesn’t happen as much as it should. There is a certain stigma associated with mental health, however when 1/4 people are affected by mental illness each year, it really is time to stamp out the sigma and talk about mental health. Following on from Paula’s post about what to do if you are worried about a friend’s mental health, I thought I would share some first hands tips of how to stay mentally healthy in a university environment and what to do if you feel that you are suffering in any way.
Mental health and university… recently I feel like I’m discussing this problem every single day. As a student representative I communicate this issue to colleagues, staff members, university support systems, external panels etc. I also wrote about mental and PhD – even if you’re not a PhD student, have a read, it might apply to you as well.
However, not everyone is talking about it. Some aren’t aware that this issue is important, some don’t care and many just are afraid or don’t know how to offer support to someone who might struggle. Tomorrow is a great opportunity to give it a try – Time to Talk Day 2018.
Let’s face it: doing a PhD isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. The process can be painful and annoying, and at some point you’re probably going to get completely stuck. If you’ve ever done any research, you definitely know what I’m talking about.
There’s something you need to do, usually some task that was supposed to be easy – a toy example, an almost standard code, a “quick” experiment to check your hypothesis. And here you are, spending long hours, days, weeks, even months, not even closer to solving your problem. You’ve tried everything, used all possible sources you could find, but this devil isn’t giving up.
It’s not a secret that grad school might be dangerous for mental health. In recent years people started to talk about it openly, numerous studies on this topic have been done (eg. on suicides or depression). The awareness of mental health is rising, which definitely makes it easier to get help when needed. However, this isn’t the full story.
A few years ago I started to consider a possiblity of pursuing a PhD. So I googled around – big mistake. Phrases such as “grad school mental health” returned thousands of websites suggesting that the coming years will be filled with pain and tears.
In some ways I have an advantage as in addition to my Asperger Syndrome diagnosis I have a long history of anxiety and depression going right back to my early teens so am already equipped for dealing with mental health difficulties. Here is what I have found:
Hi. 🙂 This is me (finally) following up on mentioning that I was stressed and depressed in second term this year. I am not anymore!
A period when you feel like you can’t quite cope with things (or perhaps a rather more extreme version of that feeling) seems to be common at university, so I thought I would share with you what helped me when I was in a similar situation and might help you prevent some sadness.
Firstly though, two things:
1) You might be thinking: ‘lol stressed?! Why would I be stressed at uni? No parents, lots of friends and activities and university is all about having fun.’
I agree with you— but I think you should still read this.