May is Mental Health Awareness month, so we wanted to take the opportunity to talk about mental health at university. According to UCAS, there has been a 450% increase in student mental health declarations over the last decade. With more awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions now than ten years ago, this isn’t surprising. But it does show that students at university are particularly vulnerable to having poor mental health.
Joanna Dale, a Student Advisor at the University of Sussex, tells us about the University’s approach to Mental Health.
“I’m an advisor in the Student Life Centre, which is part of a wider Student Experience Team at Sussex University. The Student Life Centre supports students during challenging or difficult times which often affect their mental wellbeing. We want students to feel they can open up about their mental health and talk honestly about what they are going through.
“Sometimes students come to the Student Life Centre and have never spoken to anyone about their mental health before. That is a very important moment for them and we take what they tell us very seriously and listen carefully. We talk with students about how they experience their mental health issues and what might help them. This can include other University services such as the counselling service, the specialist disability unit or the campus & residential team. We also signpost to a range of external resources in the local area and support students to engage with those services.”
“We encourage students to develop their autonomy and find ways to boost their wellbeing and build emotional resilience. Fostering a culture of openness and acceptance around mental health is a core value in our work. We all need support at times and no one should feel they have to manage on their own. We want students to feel part of a community where we all care about each other”.
If you’re worried about your mental health at university, we hope Joanna’s words will inspire you to talk to someone about it. University can be a very stressful time for young people that are studying at a high level and living away from home for the first time. It’s very normal to feel down or put out by the university experience. All universities will run specialist services for mental health, counselling and learning support, so it’s important to use these services if you feel like you’re struggling. Confide in your friends and others, and don’t ‘deal with it’ alone. You’re never alone.