What it’s like dealing with depression at university
One in four students suffer from mental health in the UK
One in four UK uni students experience problems with their mental health according to YouGov. In order to educate myself on the issue, I spoke to a friend suffering from depression to learn about their experience and see if they were given sufficient support.
When did you first realise you were depressed?
That’s actually a difficult question. There’s not really a point when you suddenly realise, “oh, I’m probably depressed”. I guess it’s always been this lingering feeling, but then it got worse over Christmas for reasons I can’t really explain. It was a combination of different factors. The lack of a specific reason can make it very difficult to explain my depression to others. For me, it was just this mental barrier that I hit.
How has it affected your university life?
It has been a big punch: I very easily got into this evil circle where I started struggling with work. This made me feel more and more guilty which again made it harder to do work. For me I stopped going to seminars because I hadn’t done the reading or essays and didn’t want to explain the reason to my seminar tutors, especially in front of the class. Getting out of bed was hard enough and it took a lot to just take that first step. I stopped sleeping and hanging out with friends because I told myself I had to dedicate every moment of the day to catch up on work, but in the end I’d just do nothing.
Does the university offer sufficient care and help?
I had to take the first step. In my experience nothing is going to happen without you going to someone. After several weeks I realised that if I wanted to avoid failing this year it had to be done. So now I’ve talked to my tutors and the head of department and they have all been very helpful. I missed a few essays and a lot of seminars but they are trying to catch me up. The uni pointed me in the right directions such as going to the GP and talking to the appropriate departments and most importantly fill out a mitigating circumstances form. They’ve all been telling me to deal with the depression first and then worry about the work, and take some time off if I needed it. Everyone I’ve been in contact with have been very supportive and it really just feels like they want me to succeed.
Did the university notice anything was wrong?
No not really, I missed out on almost every seminar and didn’t hand in a few essays, so I got a few emails asking for the essays but that was it. It was really up to me to get out of bed and go talk to the appropriate people. If I hadn’t done that I’d probably be back home now without any hope of continuing my studies this year.
How does it impact your social life?
For me it has been really tough. Depression is different for everyone, but I think you quite often develop some sort of social anxiety where it can be difficult to rely on even your closest friends. For me depression came with a lot of self doubt, so naturally it was difficult to include myself. I knew that I had friends that wanted to spend time with me, but any number of small reasons always convinced me otherwise. Also, if you have spent your whole day in bed you don’t really want to go out. These tiny rooms on campus can be suffocating. I personally hate spending time alone, but that’s what I’d always end up doing. Most people spend most their time outside their room but when you’re struggling it’s easy to get stuck inside by yourself.
What do you think about the stigma around depression and does that make it harder to deal with?
It’s the bane of our existence. And yes; it can make it so much harder to deal with. There’s nothing worse than the self stigmatisation causing you to feel shameful and making it so much harder to open up to anyone. But I know that depression doesn’t define me; I don’t wear it like a title.
What advice would you give to other students who think they might be depressed?
I think the first rule is to talk to someone- your doctor, your personal tutor, your friend, a sibling, anyone. There are people out there that want to help you and will listen to you. For me it was so hard even to just get out of bed, and especially open up to someone. But now that I have I’m doing so much better. Don’t let those missed seminars or essays get you down. Get your head above water before you start worrying about that. Taking time off and going home is not defeat.
I think a lot of people wear this mask pretending to be fine but underneath are really struggling. A good friend of mine lost someone to suicide and it came as a huge shock to everyone. It is so important to seek help. If you’re struggling, please talk to someone. And to everyone, remember you don’t always know what other people are dealing with, so be kind to each other, and talk to each other about these things.
If you think you have depression here are some websites to seek help: