Some tips and tricks for looking after your mental health at Lancaster uni
It all comes down to this: knowing where to go and who to tell
Finding the courage to ask for help when you need it and then finding a solution or treatment that works for you is difficult at every age and in every situation. Personally, I think it is especially challenging for university students to access the support that they need when it comes to mental health. Whilst this article will point out the obstacles that you may come across, it will also aim to help you, or someone you know, to find the right kind of support and offer manageable solutions to some of these problems.
Embarrassment and confusion
Being a university student is a relatively strange period in your life – you’re in this sort of limbo between adolescence and adulthood – you want to be taken seriously but also need help from time to time, especially when it comes to mental health. Because of this want for independence, some students might try to deal with mental health issues on their own or worse, ignore them.
Here’s something to keep in mind if you cope in this kind of way: ‘independent’ doesn’t mean ‘alone’. Telling someone about the issues that you’re having won’t affect your freedom to make your own decisions about how you move forward in finding mental health support. It will always be your choice and what you are comfortable with.
Another issue that arises around mental health for students is the negative stigma. From personal experience, I know that asking for help can be daunting as you never really know how someone will react, whether it’s a family member, a friend or even an academic advisor. My best advice would be to tell someone that you trust and, in most situations, they will be willing to offer help themselves or point you in the direction of someone who can.
Lack of information
Not knowing where to go for help is another reason why students find it hard to get support for mental health. Students who aren’t registered with a GP local to their university often can’t access support outside of university run services. Whilst the university do supply some information about mental health services, it is usually put out via an email crammed with wordy paragraphs about how to access the support and where do get it. As well as this, the emails get sent to the ‘Other’ inbox rather than the ‘Focussed’ inbox, meaning it’s easy to miss them unless you are looking for them specifically.
In my experience, the best way to find out more about the universities mental health services is to search on the university website, email the counselling or disability service directly, or, if it’s possible to do so, visit the Base on campus to find more information on the services that the university offer. It usually starts with an informal consultation so there is no pressure to commit to the service. There will be a list of useful contacts both within and outside of the university at the end of this article.
A common misconception about university students is that their lives consist of three care-free years of partying, living with friends and having no responsibilities. From people who aren’t in higher education, parents included, I’ve often heard things like ‘You should try having a full-time job’ or ‘Wait until you enter the real world’. Newsflash: this is our reality – don’t ever let anyone undermine your situation or tell you that your mental health concerns aren’t valid.
Of course, there is a social side to university life which can arguably create even more pressure for some students. Moreover, some students are working as well as studying. Everyone’s anxieties and mental health concerns come from a different place but you don’t have to justify those concerns to anyone who approaches you with this narrow-minded attitude. As students, we are responsible for our own futures and the majority of our studies are done independently and at the end of the day, we don’t pay nine grand a year to party.
‘Studies come first’ attitude
Being money conscious is also something that affects students’ decisions to seek help for mental health. We are constantly aware of what our degree is costing us and not just the tuition fees. There’s rent, food, travel, university supplies, books, etc. This monetary awareness means that some students become more concerned about their studies than their own mental wellbeing, feeling pressure to complete academic work under strained circumstances.
I’m now in my third year at Lancaster and I can honestly say that my grades have suffered more when I haven’t asked for help and tried to complete assignments when I’m not in the right headspace. Try taking a break from the academic books and read some self-help books or do whatever works for you to help you recover; treat yourself as you would if you had a physical illness. In my experience, the Directors of Studies and Course Coordinators are accommodating with situations like this through offering extensions, meetings with tutors and generally checking up on you once they’re aware that you’re in a difficult situation.
The university offers Inclusive Learning Support Programmes to students who have diagnosed mental health conditions, which will highlight the characteristics of your condition and how they may impact your academic studies. They will also make recommendations about reasonable adjustments that your department and the exams team should put in place to support your studies.
It all comes down to this: knowing where to go and who to tell, not letting anyone undermine your concerns and always putting your mental health first.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. You can find support on their website.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. You can call their helpline or webchat with them here.
More information and resources can be found here:
Lancaster University Counselling Service: [email protected]
Lancaster University Disability Service: [email protected]
Lancaster Nightline: [email protected]
Mindsmatter NHS Lancashire and Morecombe: 01524 550552