Living with a mental health issue can be tough for anyone. But if you’re a student, facing unique challenges and expectations, it can be especially tough.
As part of Anti-Bullying Week 2019, we wanted to focus on student mental health, what effect bullying has on mental health and what you can do to deal with these issues.
That’s a lot of students going through tough times. In fact, in a room of 40 people, four will have a diagnosable mental health issue; and out of those four, one would be receiving treatment.
Bullying commonly happens in childhood and recent figures from the Anti-Bullying Alliance show it has a widespread impact.
1 in 10 children said they have missed school due to bullying. Even greater numbers have changed their route to school (14%) and nearly 1 in 5 (19%) have steered clear of spending time with friends to avoid being bullied (https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/).
The impact of bullying can last well into adulthood and although it is more often associated with schools, bullying exists in many forms in the workplace, at university and online.
Victims of bullying are more risk to mental health problems, long-term damage to self-esteem and problems adjusting to school, work or university.
If bullying is not dealt with effectively, it can lead the victim to take part in risky behaviours in order to cope, such as self-isolation, self-harm, lack of engagement in school, university or work and wider relationships.
FRIENDS, FAMILY & COLLEAGUES
Keeping a close network of friends and family around you can make a huge difference to how you feel. Even if that just means one trusted friend, or a person you can be open with who will support you, and listen to what you’re going through.
The NHS provides student mental health services, like counselling and other therapies. The first place to go is to your GP, who might be able to prescribe you medication, refer you to local services, or help you access treatment that best suits your needs.
Many universities provide free counselling services to their students – although they might be limited in what they can offer. Your tutors or employer might also be able to make adjustments to help you study, like moving deadlines etc.
If you need support at work and feel comfortable talking with your employer about your health, your manager or someone from Human Resources should be able to put support measures in place.
Paying for therapies, such as counselling, is an option if you can afford it. While some good treatment options are available, it can be quite expensive.
If you’re living with a mental health issue, this might be a factor when choosing how and where you’d like to study.
Support should be available to you, whatever your choice – so you shouldn’t need to feel limited.
But while the experience of university or an apprenticeship will be different for everyone, there are some common factors to think about, in relation to your student mental health:
Coping with stress at work…
If you’re studying as part of an apprenticeship, work will obviously be a big part of your life. But even part time jobs can lead to stress, with or without a mental health issue.
If the daily grind is giving you problems:
First…recognise the things that are causing stress. Try and be as specific as possible.
Next…think about what helps. When do you feel happy at work? Try to prioritise or focus on these things.
Then…if you need to, talk to your manager about it. They might be able to make some adjustments that can help. Of course, this might not always be possible – depending on your role. But small changes can often go a long way. For example:
Remember…think about your job description. Are the expectations on you still within the boundaries of your role?
And always…keep remembering what’s important in life. Keep supportive people around you, and try to look after your physical health.
Supporting other people…
If you’d like to help someone you know who is experiencing a mental health issue, the best thing you can do is simply be there for them.
While stigma surrounding mental health is improving, it’s still very real for lots of people – often resulting in isolation and bullying. But the good news is that simply listening and spending time with someone can go a long way. Whoever we are, we all need a safe environment with people that we trust.