This year for World Mental Health Day, I wanted to focus on why mental health and wellbeing matters so much for us at university. Whether you’re a returning student, or a first year starting out, it can be an overwhelming time and often we don’t realise that our mental health is starting to worsen until we’re in the middle of a crisis. A mental health crisis often occurs when we find ourselves in hardship – whether that be friendship or relationship struggles, grief and loss, financial struggles, or a worsening of our physical health. However, our mental health can also become damaged for no apparent external influence either – and this is okay too.
As students, we often feel we must skew our priorities in order to excel at university; we sacrifice sleep and sometimes socialising to meet deadlines and carry an enormous pressure to succeed with us all the time. Recognising how this can negatively affect our wellbeing so that we can deal with it effectively is so important. Good wellbeing habits are often overlooked as unnecessary ideals, but they really are invaluable; getting enough sleep, meeting friends and family and making time for mindfulness or meditation can really go a long way in improving our mental health and wellbeing.
Something else we must face not only as a university, but in wider society, is the stigma around accessing mental health support. This is not something that is synonymous with weakness or failing, but in fact shows strength and a determination to help yourself get better. There is no shame in someone going to the GP for a physical health complaint, so why has society made accessing counselling or other mental health support taboo? I hope that at Imperial, students feel they can safely get the help they need from the counselling and student support network, who work tirelessly year-round to ensure that the students who are struggling most feel supported. Through wellbeing reps, welfare chairs and the mental health network, I hope students at Imperial will never feel alone in their mental health struggles.
So on this World Mental Health Day, as life begins to return to normal after the pandemic and university life starts up again, please take a moment to think about how you will prioritise your mental health. Accepting that FOMO isn’t always a good thing and choosing what will improve your mental wellbeing instead, is always the right decision. And if you ever feel your mental health start to deteriorate, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of the wellbeing or mental health support networks, who are always here to support you.
If you need support with your mental health, visit the Union Advice Centre or College's Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service.
Lottie Barot, Mental Health Officer 2021-22