Student Mental Health
Oh my goodness. This is it. I’m doing it. I am finally doing it. I am flying. Goodbye, stabilisers. You served me well. I have need for you no longer. I am... ah.
A crash, a bang, and a wallop later, and I’m in a cloud of dust on the floor, a mangled mess of bike frame, wheel, and five-year-old. I’ve fallen off, again.
This time, it’s serious. My knees are grazed. Elbows too. The options here are fairly limited, so I’ll take the one that seems easiest. I will run to my Mum in tears.
This story of learning to ride a bike may sound familiar to you. A child eager to dispense with the stabilisers and go it alone, only to fall off and run into the comforting arms of a trusted adult.
In some ways, I don’t think the University experience is too dissimilar either. Young people, barely adults, heading off into the unknown for an epic adventure. If you moved away from home, the stabilisers back there seem small in the distance.
Family, friends, teachers at school or college, whoever your stabilisers were, there’s no escaping the fact that you’re now miles away from them.
When things are good, it’s okay! You’re getting on well with your course, you’ve got good mates, you’re finding time to engage in your hobbies. But what about when things are harder? Without the stabilisers you counted on at home, where are you going for support?
Start the conversation
I will always remember the advice my Granny gave me before I started University. She said, “Don’t forget - everyone’s in the same boat!”. Everyone at University has made the same leap you have. So when they find the going gets tough, and mental health issues start to affect them - they too are trying to keep pedaling as best they can without those safe, familiar stabilisers.
Not dissimilar to most mental health issues, it’s important to start a conversation. Who around you do you trust? Which course mates, flatmates, teammates have you built some strong relationships with? It might sound really scary at first, but just vocalising the way you’re feeling to another person is a great way to start processing what’s happening
Start taking small steps on the way to getting professional help
If you find that talking about your problems isn’t helping enough, it might be helpful to talk to a medical professional. Again, this might seem scary at first, but it’s important to remember that you just need to take things step by step on the way to sitting down with a doctor to talk about the way you’re feeling.
If you’re anything like me, you absolutely did not register for the University medical centre when you arrived. My top tip here would be to get the forms from your University medical centre, text your Mum and find out what the flip your NHS number is anyway, and register.
It might seem tempting to just go back home for a day or two, and go to your old doctor's surgery whilst you’re there. However, taking an intentional step of registering at your University and setting up an appointment shows real independence and a willingness to seek help on your own terms.
Remember that God’s plans for you at University are still there
However long you’ve felt low, remember that God still has amazing plans for you at University. He’s got you where you are for a purpose.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
Whether you’re in Manchester, Glasgow, or Falmouth - God has purposes for you at University. To meet people, Christians and non-Christians, to grow and mature in your faith, and become the real life adult that he wants you to be.
No level of mental health trouble will change this. He loves you so much, and he cares deeply about your mental health and your spiritual journey at University.
Sam Brown is a Student Mission Developer with Fusion, and also Student Pastor at Greyfriars Church, Reading.