It feels like the last few years have just rolled into one! It’s a struggle to keep up with what day, month or year we are morphing into. Everything is changing, but at the same time, we are stuck moving in slow motion. It’s no wonder that things feel especially difficult right now.
It’s normal to feel drained and in search of excitement and normality. The University experience has always been hailed as some of the best years you’ll ever have in your life, a chance to meet a wealth of people, to socialise and experiment and become the person you want to be. The thrill of independence, knowledge and friendship has had a dark cloud cast over it by the constraints of living in a Covid world. That’s not to say mental health never existed pre 2020, but the face of it is transforming.
The benefits of self-love, self-care and revelling in our authenticity have become the goal of this year. What an exhausting journey that is when you are looking into a mirror that tells you that you are lonely, anxious or depressed?
Lockdowns, online learning, remote working, furlough, redundancy, exams, deadlines – the pressure to perform in an uncertain world is starting to take its toll. On University Mental Health Day, let’s show support for those finding life hard – let us reduce the burden of feeling alone.
Here are some tips on how best to show up for yourself and as a friend when you know that someone is struggling.
Step one: Be Kind
Watching someone’s mental health deteriorate can be difficult, it can be hard to not pass judgement if you’ve noticed a friend has stopped socialising with you, to write them off because it feels like they’re not making an effort. It’s hard to not get sucked into moaning when they may have stopped pulling their weight in cleaning around the flat.
Avoid someone else becoming the talking point of flat dynamics and instead, where possible, show them that you are there for them. Offer help where you can – if you’ve noticed that their shelf is looking bare – can you offer to go to the shop with them and help them get out of the flat? Sometimes, something as simple as striking up a conversation with genuine intent when they walk into a room can be so powerful (rather than internally blaming them for never saying hi first), keep inviting them to social events even if you know they may not come, keep nurturing the relationship so they feel like they have a friendly face to turn to if they need it.
Step Two: Talk about It
Mental health is something that can affect anyone from any walk of life, when you’re in the throes of struggling with mental health, it can feel like you’re the only one that has ever felt that way. You’re not expected to have all the answers, but don’t worry that you’re making things worse by asking how someone is – it could turn their day around, for the better.
Ignoring it or treating it like the elephant in the room can exacerbate those feelings of shame, not feeling good enough and isolate your friend or flatmate even further. Mental health struggles can be so isolating and lonely, knowing just one person is there to speak to can be such a comfort and support.
You might find that they aren’t ready to talk, be patient, you’ve opened an avenue for them that they may go back to at a later date. Be proud of yourself for reaching out, try and avoid blaming them too for not accepting your opening.
Mental health difficulties can take so many different forms, sadness, irritability, anger, tiredness – it can even display itself physically. Try and speak with your friend about how their mental health displays itself so you’re best equipped to support them, and yourself when you see it happening.
Step Three: Look after yourself
Being a support network for someone with mental health challenges can take its toll, it’s really important to look after yourself too. It may be necessary to set boundaries, it’s ok to admit you’re not equipped to deal with the full impact of someone else’s mental health struggles – don’t beat yourself up over it, you’re only human too. It’s ok to say you can’t be available all of the time to support someone else.
If you’re not in the best place to provide the support yourself, don’t pressure yourself. If you can, signpost your friend to their university wellbeing department, Student Minds ambassador or even your accommodation manager who will have extra tools to support them.
Step Four: Have patience
It’s ok to have not experienced mental health difficulties on a personal level, and not understand how lonely it can feel. There are some incredible websites, podcasts and self-help guides out there that might help you understand how extensively mental health can impact someone.
If someone is committed to treatment, (in whatever form is comfortable for them) their mental health may improve over time. It may be that this is a slow process, they may have good days and bad days side by side. Try not to get frustrated by the bad days, ride the wave with them and let them know you’re there at the end of it.
If you need support with managing your mental health struggles, have a look at what support Student Minds has in your area, they can be found here:
Alternatively, look to Abodus for further blog posts and see the excellent work they do to support good Mental Health at https://abodusstudents.com/ or on their Instagram at www.instagram.com/abodus_student_living
This University Mental Health Day, how are you #showingup?
Written by Amber Empowers