Why are more students suffering from a mental illness than ever before?

Your Gov showed that 27% of students surveyed reported having a mental health problem.

The most widely reported mental health issues are depression and anxiety.

Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It does not stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile.

At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.

There are also some specific types of depression:

  •         Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – depression that usually (but not always) occurs in the winter.
  •         Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more. Also called persistent depressive disorder or chronic depression.
  •         Prenatal depression – sometimes also called antenatal depression, it occurs during pregnancy.
  •         Postnatal depression – occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women but it can affect men, too

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

Most people feel anxious at times. It is particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life so that is why it could impact students more.

Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if:

  •         your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  •         your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  •         you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  •         your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  •         you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  •         you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

Many of the students asked have claimed that their anxiety and depression can stop them from managing with the amount of work that is needed at university.

Sophie Edwards, 20, University of Greenwich has social anxiety and depression.

She said; ‘It has stopped me from going into university sometimes, I find it hard to do group work (which is a problem as 90% of my course is group work), I struggle to make conversation with new people and just generally struggle to manage.’

SJ Murray, studying Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey, said; ‘The main problems I experience are anxiety and depression. My anxiety is a generalized type where it can range from anything but it can make me ruminate and worry about things most of the time.

‘I’m never really living in the moment but always in the past or the future. The depression side of it is probably also to do with the anxiety when you spend so much time worrying, you tend to convince yourself that everything is negative or bad in your life and that you won’t ever feel okay or your life is normal.

‘I find it exhausting battling this most days but after a couple of psych hospital admissions and a few suicide attempts I  realised that the better option is to keep fighting and this is one of the reasons why I am training to be a mental health nurse, I want to help others also keep fighting the fight.’

Teesside University offers counselling to students if they would like it.

The student support team offer personal counselling where you will be allocated councillorr following the return of your form applying for counselling. Each counselling session will usually last 50 minutes and the frequency of sessions will be negotiated between you and your councillor. The number of sessions varies from client to client and can be anything from 2 – 6 sessions. You can stop counselling at any time, but preferably having discussed it with your councillor first.

They also offer Single-session counselling. This is a form of Brief Therapy, developed for clients who feel they only need 1-2 sessions of counselling.

It is an approach which uses particular strategies to enable you to move forward with a particular issue or problem. They will ask you to think about the issue you are bringing to counselling in a particular way. With the help of some statements given to you before you start the session, they will then work towards building or creating a way forward that may work for you. The session can also be used for information gathering and guidance about self-help resources available. This combined with an Action Plan may be all that is required.

Becca’ Marie Spencer Studying Psychology at the University of Reading, said; ‘If there’s anyone out there who has mental health issues and they’re struggling, it’s important that they know and understand that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s also important for them to remember to go to the uni/doctors for help in terms of extenuating circumstances. Universities have a better understanding now but that they still have a long way to go in terms of finding a balance between helping those with mental health problems and giving those people too much leeway.’


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