Our creative arts intern, Greta, wrote this piece to raise awareness surrounding mental health, an issue that has become even more important over this past year.

Although mental illnesses such as OCD, Depression or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are extremely important to talk about and de-stigmatise, it is also crucial that we acknowledge that everyone has mental health, and anyone can struggle and have low days or low periods…

Conversations around mental health have come to the forefront this past year, particularly due to the pandemic, with an increasing number of people feeling isolated because of lockdown restrictions, losing income and work, and potentially having to move back home with family. According to Mind, those who identify as LGBTQ+, are Black or Black British, or experience homelessness or substance misuse, are those most affected by mental health problems. Additionally, Mind claims that over a quarter of young women aged 16-24 report having a common mental health problem (such as depression or anxiety). Although these statistics are referring to specific groups of people in society, this actually covers a large portion of students, recent graduates and our peers. It seems that many of us either do, or potentially will, struggle with our mental health at some point, particularly at a younger age where we may not feel as settled or secure in ourselves and our lives yet. Factors like trying to find your first job, working out what career you want to pursue, or moving to a new city, for work or university, where you don’t know anyone, can heavily influence your mental health.

One of Studenteer’s Project Co-ordinators, Chris, ran a mental health campaign during August. He shared why, particularly at this time, he felt it was an important campaign to run:

“Within every day student life, mental health crops up more and more…Having already worked with some mental health charities myself that support students, like Student Minds, I decided to start investigating charities that worked in student mental health more widely. After all, my role on the projects team is to find projects that students will be invested in and want to volunteer for. Quite rapidly I learnt that my thinking was too narrow. When you type in [to google] mental health charities, you slowly learn of the vast list that exists. Hence my creation of the Mental Health Campaign for Studenteer. My vision was to get 1 or 2 mental health charities from the NHS list to be involved and create a project for a Studenteer to work on. The response we got was so much more than this, with charities like Anxiety UK coming back to us immediately willing to be involved. This was amazing to see and confirmed that it was the correct place to target the campaign.”

Although mental illnesses such as OCD, Depression or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are extremely important to talk about and de-stigmatise, it is also crucial that we acknowledge that everyone has mental health, and anyone can struggle and have low days or low periods, without having a formal diagnosis or condition. As Amy, another of Studenteer’s Project Co-ordinators, says:

“What people often don’t realise is that everyone has mental health. Mental health is simply the health of the mind, psychologically and emotionally, whether good or bad, or good and bad, and everything in-between.”

As we start to open up the conversation around mental health, we realise that every single person has an emotional and psychological inner world that needs taking care of. We might go to the gym, go for a walk, or take part in a yoga class, but we often neglect to pay attention to our minds and our mood, which are inextricably linked to our physical health too!

This past year, as we have come in and out of lockdown, I have had at least one conversation with every one of my friends about how they’re feeling and coping, or what they are struggling with, whether that is missing their family, struggling to find work, or finding it challenging to cope with the ever-changing rules of lockdown. Hollie, the Managing Director of Studenteer says:

“no one can cope with everything in life all on their own, we all need help sometimes.”

It can be tempting to isolate ourselves in our thoughts, especially if we perceive those thoughts as ‘negative’. We might want to keep these feelings to ourselves, either because we aren’t aware that others feel the same way as us, or we aren’t comfortable having those kinds of conversations. But building a support system, even if it starts with one person, like a friend, family member, or therapist, is so important for finding ways to cope with difficult times, or with managing and recovering from a mental illness.

Our ‘normal’ has been turned upside down this year, and it is completely valid and understandable if you haven’t been able to do the things you think you ‘should’ be doing, like preparing for finals whilst applying for graduate jobs, especially with the added stress of not being able to access your usual support network as easily as possible, or, in many cases, having to live with family members who you have a strained relationship with, which has its own unique challenges. As Chris says:

Despite the challenges that we face, we’re the first generation to properly acknowledge it [mental health] and say, “IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK!” Even more than this though, we’re a caring generation.

It is okay to acknowledge that the past year has been difficult, and it is okay to not do everything. It will continue to be vitally important, as we (hopefully) come out of lockdown, to keep conversations around mental health open and honest.

By Greta Sharp for Studenteer

© All Rights Reserved, Studenteer 2021

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