University can be a stressful time for anybody. With deadlines to meet, research to complete and lectures and seminars to attend, academia is no easy ride. Add to this the worry of loans and finances, social events and personal problems, and it becomes clear why students are at high risk of some form of mental health problems.
One in four people experience mental health problems every year, the most common of which is anxiety. Anxiety can appear in multiple forms, both mild and severe, like any other mental illness. Everybody as some point in their lives will experience anxiety, be it during your student years, once you start a family, or even in your workplace. Worrying is only natural, and is not always bad; worrying about work can motivate you to do better, or work harder, something that normally increases around the examination period. However, extreme forms of anxiety can take its toll on the body, causing physical discomfort and illness, as well as preventing the sufferer from partaking in social activities or normal everyday life.
GAD, or Generalised Anxiety Disorder, is often diagnosed as excessive worrying, or panic, and can be frequently triggered by trauma or phobias. Most commonly diagnosed in Britain today are mild anxiety and depression, with 9% meeting the diagnosis criteria. Anxiety is most often found in young men and women in their twenties – unsurprisingly, the same age range for students and graduates.
Especially at this time of year, when many Freshers are beginning their time away from home, and students are beginning to work towards assessments, essays and examinations, anxiety and depression can really take its toll.
On Monday 10th October, SUSU held its own Mental Health Awareness Day, in aid of World Mental Health day, an event that occurs right across the UK. Frankie Fry, Vice President Welfare and Communities, went into more detail about what the day entailed:
“On the day we had external organisations such as Solent Mind and the Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) team in attendance offering interactive activities such as a wall to pledge how you’re going to be mentally healthy and a myth or fact quiz. We also had an interactive activity where you could make stress balls out of balloons and rice!”
“Mental health is a subject that often has a stigma attached and therefore often people do not want to approach the subject. This is why we support World Mental Health Day, to raise awareness and try and reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.”
Anxiety, like all other mental health issues, should not be ignored. There are steps that can be taken to reduce fear and panic and to reinstate calm. Basic relaxation techniques, such as steady breathing, can really help. Organising your life, and addressing the issues that cause you worry are also effective.
“If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you can check out this podcast from Surge Radio http://www.surgeradio.co.uk/features/articles/0299.html giving you 10 top tips on being mentally healthy and playing you some relaxing music.” Says Frankie.
“There are also a number of support services available at the University. At SUSU we have The Advice Centre who offer free and confidential advice on any issue. They can be contacted on 023 8059 2085 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have Nightline which is a free and confidential listening service run by students between the hours of 8PM and 8AM during term-time, they can be contacted on 023 8059 5236.”
Frankie went on to assert that the university of Southampton are aware of the pressure students are put under, and are able to facilitate those with problems of any kind:
“At the University there is Education Support which encompasses a number of services including First Support, which is a crisis support service that offers an out of hours service. There is a Counselling Service and also Enabling Services which can help with any additional support you may need during your time at University. All of the details of these services can be found here: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/edusupport/index.shtml ”