Generally celebrated as the best time of your life, being a student is often the first time we go forth into the big, wide world, and studying certainly opens up tons of opportunities to develop and grow – meeting new people, learning about different opinions, experimenting with lifestyles and considering future directions – there’s a lot going on, to say the least.
So a certain level of stress is to be expected when juggling assignment deadlines, exams, financial responsibilities and a social life. Add to that the pressure to succeed and burgeoning debt, before we know it, we could be heading to a bad place.
Things get steadily worse and we hide, unable to address the things that might be causing concern, like realising we’re studying the wrong subject, getting behind on coursework and revision, or racking up a beast of a credit card bill.
Ring any bells?
Perhaps you’re feeling at odds with your course mates and surroundings, and this is understandable and very common, but it’s when such feelings become unbearable, and continue for several weeks, that it’s time to consider seeking help.
Mental health issues affect as many as 1 in 4 adults in the UK in any one year, depression being the most common and the most treatable of conditions.
The most common symptoms of depression are:
- Constantly feeling sad, empty, and/or anxious
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, including sex
- Tiredness and less energy in general
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Anger and frustration
- Poor concentration
- Feelings of hopelessless
If you recognise any of these symptoms, it is really important to get registered with the local GP and go and see them. Or at the very least, open up to your mates about how you’re feeling. Chances are, they have had similar experiences to a lesser or greater extent. No one can feel on top of the world every single day. We all go through low periods. It’s a normal part of being a human being, so it is crucial that you remember that you are not the only one feeling unable to cope or in crisis. With that in mind, it’s important, although can be tough, to seek help when things get too much.
As mentioned before, depression is a treatable condition, and the doctor should be able to give a proper diagnosis and offer various treatment options – treatments that work for many people.
Recovery can and does happen, every day, and the first step (albeit a big one) is reaching out and getting help.
If it’s too daunting to see a GP alone, maybe ask if somebody can go with you.
If that’s just too difficult, try talking to a tutor or contacting the student services department – these professionals are there to help and they should be able to talk through the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can be made to help you get on with student life. They should also be able to tell you about any financial assistance available to students with depression.
Student support services are there to be used and their ultimate aim is to help you, as much as possible, to complete your course.
It’s worth remembering that there doesn’t have to be a reason to be depressed, sometimes it just happens when our body’s serotonin levels drop, but if there are stressful issues contributing to depression, such as exam stress and anxiety, unmanageable debt or difficult social issues, then try to bear in mind that many of these hassles can be sorted.
Other really useful things that might help to ease some of the symptoms of depression, and are really worth a try, include:
- Eating lots of fruit and vegetables – vitamin C helps
- Drinking loads of water to keep the body and brain hydrated
- Exercise – it doesn’t have to be gym sessions, even a walk can lift mood
- Being your own best mate – you don’t need to be perfect. Look after yourself.
- Staying away from alcohol and drugs
- Keep caffeine to a minimum
- Making time to relax
- Practice mindfulness and learn to live in the moment
- Spending time with people and doing things that make you happy
Try using the CALM agency search-tool on this website to locate advice about the specific things that are bothering you – there are loads of organisations out there offering support, on a whole range of things, or call the CALM helpline to speak to someone and work through your problems. It’s anonymous, confidential and free from landlines, payphones and most mobile phones. Open 5pm – midnight every day of the year (including Christmas Day), calls won’t appear on your phone bill. There is a team of trained staff ready to take your call and to discuss whatever is getting you down. They can then offer non-judgmental support and information about services that can help you out.
Although life might be difficult at this point in time, if it is depression that is causing this, then it is possible to recover and have a happy life. And most importantly, remember that you are not alone. There is always an alternative.
You can also check out Students Against Depression, who offer comprehensive information and resources for students to help identify low mood or depression and then find a way forward.