Tips for Battling Depression at University
1) Talk to people
This is obvious, but insanely difficult. Nobody wants to be a burden. Nobody wants to draw that kind of attention to themselves. Nobody wants to be seen as a victim. When you choose to open up about how you feel though, you’ll soon realise that those thoughts, have no bearing on reality or the actions of other people. All those thoughts are is your condition trying to keep itself in power.
Countless millions of people are going through exactly the same thing as you are right now, but most feel like they can’t speak out. That their friends will think badly of them once they hear what they’re going through. The fact is, though, that if they are truly your friends, then they’d want to know. If they don’t want to know, or will think badly of you, then they’re not your friends and you’re better off without them. So it’s kind of a win-win situation, if you think about it.
However, I understand if you simply can’t talk to friends (or perhaps, as I was in my first year, you’re so crippled by your feelings that you haven’t made friends yet). If not, talk to parents or family, the important thing is to talk. Which leads me to my next point.
2) Look for help
I know that this can be difficult to think about, talking openly about these issues is hard enough. But at university, I didn’t seek the right help, and as such I suffered more than I would have if I did. According to a report by HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute), when they questioned 5,500 students who received counselling, 79% said they thought it helped them do better academically, so while you suffer, your grades may do too. Also, importantly, 81% said that counselling helped them stay in higher education.
Speaking from personal experience though, whilst it is a good idea to look for counselling, it may not be a good idea to only look to your uni’s health centre, or in-house therapists. I spoke to many who found them greatly understaffed and as such they had to wait months before being seen.
This only caused a great deal more stress. Don’t be played around like this, get the help you need.
There are a range of private counsellors around, though some are very expensive, it may be worth looking into the NHS.
3) Everyone’s in the same boat.
This isn’t a good thing, but the rates of students going through mental health issues is really, really high. In fact the majority of students suffering from some form of mental health issue is higher than the rates of people in the same age group outside of uni. It’s a straight up public health crisis. As such there is no shortage of people to speak to who are suffering similar issues. I mentioned before nobody likes talking openly about their problems. Nobody likes drawing that kind of attention to themselves. So people suffer in silence. But they are there, a quiet army of people who understand exactly what you’re going through, and are going through the same, or even worse, experience.
Though you feel like you’re on your own in this fight, that nobody understands or even cares, that simply, objectively, isn’t the case.
4) Do not self-medicate
Which is to say: don’t use alcohol as an antidepressant. Though in small amounts can bring you out of your shell a bit, it is not an antidepressant, it’s the opposite. Alcohol makes things worse. Don’t get me wrong, if you want a pint, go have one, some of my best times in uni was hanging with friends in pubs and bars, but, do not, I repeat, do not go crazy with it. This sounds obvious, nobody likes a hangover, and it’s always a bit of a worry, spending some of your rent or food money on drink. But if you have an underlying mental health condition, drinking too much can make you feel far, far worse.
If you’re taking medication then you need to be more aware of how much you’re drinking. Some medications like Fluoxetine (Prozac) can make the effects worse. You might find you get drunk more quickly than you did before you took antidepressants. With it too comes extra drowsiness and nausea.
It’s important to look at potential side effects of drinking with antidepressants. Many advise not drinking at all while taking medication. Ultimately, what matters above all is your own health and wellbeing. Though it can be fun going out with friends, don’t risk your health with it. At the most, drink with moderation.
Arthur is a graduate from King’s College London. Since graduation he has turned his attention to writing. You can follow him on twitter.
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