It’s time! With bags packed, dogs tearily left, and mums tearily leaving, university can begin. The start of this time is marked by a special week loved by many – Freshers’ week. Controversial and fun, Freshers’ week is a time for making friends, partying, and making (hopefully good) memories.
Starting university isn’t always so rosy. Maybe the booze of Freshers’ week hides it, but beginning university is a stressful experience for many – an alien environment, with new people, and a totally different mode of living and learning (without family!).
How bad is the stress for students, and what should we do about it?
Student issues reflect the wider picture of pressures on young people
Universities are struggling to cope with the rising numbers of students experiencing difficulties. The worst times are the start of a new year or over the holidays, when students still on campus experience loneliness and isolation.
- Student anxiety – fearing to even come to lectures
- Mental breakdowns
- Students dropping out – 26,000 first year students in 2017
- Student suicides – 95 in 2017
It’s part of the wider picture of increasing mental health problems among young people under 25 – a six-fold increase compared with 1995. Life in general is far more stressful for the young.
A Fresher’s Perspective
For the fresher, homesickness, fear of socialising, and sleep issues (among other things) could begin as they have to forge their own routine. They’re ‘alone’ for the first time and need to figure out how to settle into the adult life without a close-by crutch to lean on.
This is normal for every human but modern life is more stressful than ever before and young people have taken the brunt of it. Starting university is another stressful patch to add to the mounting problems that youth faces today.
We have covered issues surrounding student’s mental illness many times on the Daily Purse, yet the fresher is a unique kind of student. This paints a sad picture about a time that should be the beginning of an immense growth, emotionally, physically, and intellectually – a time for becoming a true adult.
Help and Wellbeing
The message to all people would be to take care of your body and your mind. Many universities, if not all, have dedicated mental health services that aim to make university life smooth.
The BBC note that British universities need to do more, as the number of student suicides are rising over time. Despite this, university mental health teams are still a great place to reach out to as they can help with the specifics of university life.
What to do
If the issue you have isn’t just to do with university (or even if it is) it would be wise to talk to your GP about it as well so that you can try and get some form of help to cope or recover.
After talking to your GP, other methods of stress relief may be in order. We have spoken before about the positive effects meditation has on mental health, and it may be a good tactic to help alleviate some of the university blues.
Also looking after your body through sport is a great way to boost confidence, raise your mood, and reduce the risk of major depression.
Some excellent tips for freshers here too: Freshers’ week and mental health: top tips for students and staff.
If you’re in urgent need of help, please contact Samaritans at any time on 116 123, or NHS 111. If you’re not in an emergency but want some help, the links below are a great place to start.
Despite some shortfalls from some universities, going to their mental health team is a great first step, and talking honestly with your GP, friends, and family are ways in which you can make sure you’re getting all the support possible on this new and exciting journey into life.
Useful Links for Mental Health Issues
Here are some handy places to look for more support. Heed the previous advice, but make sure everything is taken into account:
This article should not be used in place of medical advice, nor should it be read like an academic journal.
BBC (May 2018). Student mental health ‘failing a generation’. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44091501
Campbell, D. (Sep 2018). Mental health issues in young people up sixfold in England since 1995. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/11/mental-health-issues-in-young-people-up-sixfold-in-england-since-1995
Coleman, M. (Mar 2012). Don’t cut freshers week, we need it. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/mar/12/dont-shorten-freshers-week
Harvard Health Publishing. (May 2019). More evidence that exercise can boost mood. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
Lightfoot, L. (Sep 2019). ‘My hand shook so much I spilled my tea’: a guide for the introverted fresher. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/sep/24/guide-for-introverted-fresher-starting-university-students-share-top-tips
Mikulenaite, G. (Sep 2017). Freshers’ week and mental health: top tips for students and staff. Universities UK. Retrieved from https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/blog/Pages/Freshers’-week-and-mental-health-top-tips-for-students-and-staff.aspx
Shackle, S. (Sep 2019). ‘The way universities are run is making us ill’: inside the student mental health crisis. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/27/anxiety-mental-breakdowns-depression-uk-students
The Public Purse (Jul 2019). Brief Meditations on Meditation: Mental Health And The Beautiful Quiet. Retrieved from https://www.thepublicpurse.org.uk/public-health/brief-meditations-on-meditation-mental-health-and-the-beautiful-quiet/
The Public Purse (Aug 2019). Exam Stress – What’s It Like For Our Young People? Retrieved from https://www.thepublicpurse.org.uk/general/exam-stress-whats-it-like-for-our-young-people/
Watts, J. (May 2018). Why it’s impossible for lifestyle tips to cure the mounting stress young people face today, The Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mental-health-awareness-week-stress-top-tips-lifestyle-fight-or-flight-four-fs-a8352136.html
Young Minds (2018). How To Deal With Stress In Freshers’ Week (And Beyond!) Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/blog/how-to-deal-with-stress-in-freshers-week-and-beyond/