“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
We are told that our time at university will be the best years of our lives, we are told to just stick at it, and it’ll pay off in the end, won’t it? We are told that our only problems will be fresher’s flu, hangovers and the challenge of finding the cheapest Slovakian pot noodles in the reduced aisle of Aldi. We are told it is a time we won’t forget – they aren’t wrong there.
Stressed, depressed and suicidal – yep that’s my first year. I’m sure most who read that couldn’t help but picture Will Ferrell ominously saying, ‘well that escalated quickly’. I want to speak up so others aren’t afraid to, what I’ve experienced is by no means rare or extraordinary in this time. So then why are these still taboo topics? Why are so many still too nervous to say, “yeah I am struggling” or “this happened to me and I’m not ok” without fear of rejection, even ridicule?
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been the subject of bullying or continuous rejection; previous boyfriends have ended the relationship because they couldn’t understand what was going on with me. However, I do experience the daily questions which for some may seem all too familiar, ‘don’t you get embarrassed?’ ‘so, what made you like this?’ ‘when will you get better’ ‘don’t you know employers look this stuff up and it can really limit your prospects?’ All harmless, all very misinformed questions.
The internet research firm YouGov says that 27% of students suffer from at least one form of mental health issue; ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioural and learning difficulties. However, a survey by the NUS in 2014 estimates a much higher 78%. And most tragically, the Office for National Statistics states that 112 students took their lives in 2012, this however doesn’t account for those who had already dropped out when they decided to take their lives.
The YouGov website, unsurprisingly for us students, concludes that stress is the main catalyst with the key factors being: work from university; finding a job after university; family concerns; getting a part-time job whilst studying; relationships and friends. I’d find it easier to answer what I’m not stressed about than what I am.
However, there is nothing productive about reeling off these statistics, which to be honest make me feel just like a number and that I can be labelled and identified by such a miniscule part of myself.
I want to use this column to talk about the support available here at Queen Mary, praising it, discussing needed improvements and how they will be achieved, providing information about local charities and events, the various emotions and phases which occur when experiencing mental health, from self-admittance, to telling family and asking for help. And also advice on how to deal with having these issues, whether exam stress or diagnosed depression.