Thursday, 19 October 2017

Always Be Your Biggest Inspiration

Tazmin gives advice on how to define, and follow through with, your goals at uni.

- Tazmin Pye

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up for work and got ready. Whilst sat in the car, about to be on my way, I noticed a Facebook notification pop up saying ‘you have memories’, so I had a look and realised that three years ago I started university.
Now, having finished, I have really been missing university and the lifestyle it offers, especially after entering the adult world. I wasn’t quite ready to leave, but I don’t think many of us were.
It caused me to feel incredibly nostalgic about who I was at the time, what I’ve been through, and the ups and downs I experienced at university.
I found it so interesting that someone who misses university greatly, who speaks so highly of their experience there, was absolutely determined to leave while there. My depression and anxiety really took their toll on me, to the point where the only thing I thought was going to help would be dropping out. How glad I am that I didn’t.
Why did I want to leave?
I felt depressed. I felt low. I felt vulnerable and lonely. I struggled with social situations. I thought it wasn’t for me.
Why didn’t I leave? What stopped me from going?
Myself.
I found a letter that I wrote to myself when I was starting therapy back home in Birmingham. I remembered how much worse off I was emotionally. I remembered how I decided to use my anxiety and depression to motivate me, rather than cause me to hide away. In that letter, I told myself that I would get through the pain I was in at the time, I would get into a university of my choosing to study film production, and that I would be great at it.
I sat back and realised ‘Wait, I’m here right now. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to at the time of writing that letter. Now let’s create new achievements. New goals. New aspirations. Write myself a new letter, a new promise to myself’.
They were:

  • Try and enjoy the course I worked so hard to get onto. Enjoy it first, worry about it second.
  • Don’t fear people, but understand that your lifelong friends are out there somewhere and you need to go find them.
  • Have love for yourself. Go and find yourself and enjoy how different every day can be. Enjoy your growth, change and evolution as a person. 
  • Do not fear happiness, for it is your birthright.

And so I didn’t drop out. I took the wisdom I wrote to myself when I was in a lot more pain, and I powered through. I got a First in my degree. I met some incredible people who have impacted my life wonderfully. I did it!
It is so important to not listen to the bad things your mental illness may tell you, and to listen to your heart. Nothing should ever stop you from being what you want to be. In my case, all I wanted to be at university was happy.
Perhaps if you have just started university, sit down and write a letter to yourself. Set a date to open it, or put it away and wait for it to come back and find you. You can be your biggest inspiration. See how much you grow.
Remember – happiness is our birthright.

Hey guys, it’s Tazmin. My journey suffering with severe depression and anxiety has been a difficult one; but I would not be who I am today had I not accepted my illness and worked to get better. I have just graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First in Film and Media Production, something which I thought I'd never do.  I’ve had my blog Awareness for two years and it has been so rewarding for me; I want my writing to help, inspire and touch people. I now wish to support and encourage anyone who is suffering through university with this blog. Happy reading! 
awarenessbytazmin.wordpress.com

Friday, 6 October 2017

‘I’m so OCD’

People like to use the term 'OCD' as a character trait, but what does it really mean?
- Krishna

As someone who suffers from OCD, I don’t think that the phrase 'I'm so OCD' will ever stop making me feel like I’ve been slapped across the face. It doesn’t even make sense, I mean think about it.

But that phrase, along with so many others, even along with products that showcase OCD as a form of organization, have made my life so much more difficult.

I first understood that I had contamination OCD when I was at university. For a long time before I knew that I had OCD, my behaviours' were just a quirk. I remember being called ‘infection control’ and always being relied on for having hand sanitizer in my bag. With time, what started as a quirk grew into something much more consuming. By the second year of university this simple overuse of soap was an illness that had the ability to trap me in my own home.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is cycle. It starts with an obsession (an intrusive, recurrent thought) which causes anxiety and severe discomfort. This is followed by an action which stops the anxiety. The issue is that the relief is short lived and the cycle starts all over again. For me this would focus on washing and cleanliness. I remember once having three showers straight after each other because of being near ‘contaminated things’ in my own home. It was exhausting.

At my worst it was a struggle to leave my home, I was unable to cook food and use a public bathroom? Forget about it! But there were also other things. Things that were more subtle. I would lie a lot to avoid certain social situations; I used food and alcohol as coping mechanisms (which when you are at university doesn’t always ring alarm bells) and my self esteem was basically non-existent. All of these things were interlinked. It wasn’t that I had OCD and I washed my hands a lot. It was that I had a debilitating illness that affected basically every aspect of my life.

But I think I was lucky. I had heard of OCD at some point in my life, which meant that I started to seek support when I realised that I couldn’t fix what was happening by myself. I also started campaigning and decided to use my experiences to try and raise awareness. I wanted to put the difficulty that I was going through to some good use. If I could help one person to understand what OCD really felt like or give someone the confidence to seek support themselves, then it felt like maybe all the pain was worthwhile. That it had a purpose.

Recovery was a long process. When something is so integrated into your life it takes a lot of work and time to change it. I often say ‘recovery’ because I view mental health on a spectrum. There isn’t ‘well’ and ‘unwell’ in my opinion. My recovery was about understanding and recognizing the harmful thoughts and behaviours’ that I had developed and challenging them. Forcing myself to face them until they no longer caused me pain or anxiety.

Imagine that - think of the one thing that you are the most terrified of in this world, then imagine having to face it every single day for prolonged periods of time until you are no longer scared of it. No it wasn’t easy, but it was perhaps the most beneficial and life-changing thing that I have ever done.

We should all be looking after our own mental health just as we would our physical health, because it isn’t an abnormality to experience a mental health difficulty and recovery isn't about never feeling down or unwell. I have experienced recovery but I still go through periods of difficulty. Times where I can feel the intrusive thoughts creeping back, manifesting themselves in different ways. When I notice that I am going through bottles of soap much quicker and using avoidance techniques again. The difference now is that I can notice it. I can see the signs and I know what I need to do to ensure that it doesn’t get worse.

I will forever feel frustrated when I hear phrases like ‘I’m so OCD’ because it trivialises something that impacted my life in such a consuming, challenging way. It isn’t a joke; it's very real for a lot of people. This OCD Awareness Week I want to continue to share that understanding.

The next time you hear someone joke about OCD, question it, ask them what it means. Then tell them what OCD actually is.

You could be helping someone like me who just needed to know that she had an illness, that it wasn’t her fault and that it could get better. And it did.

Want tips on understanding OCD or want to seek support? Visit OCD Action or Mind.


Hi I’m Krishna, the Design and Office Manager at Student Minds. I setup my first OCD awareness campaign back in 2013 which led me to the Student Minds group at Sheffield Hallam University. I then joined the Student Minds staff team in early 2016. As a graphic designer I am passionate about using design to raise understanding of mental health difficulties, inspire conversations around mental health and help to show people that they are not alone.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Educating Myself on Myself: Embracing my Bisexuality at University

Eilidh shares her experience of being bisexual at university and her experience of coming out. 

- Eilidh Tyler Reid

I always found it difficult to admit to myself, never mind anyone else, that I was bisexual. Throughout my childhood I’d only ever (knowingly) met one person who wasn’t heterosexual, a friend of my mum’s; a tall, foreboding and wonderfully flamboyant gay man. Not exactly the broadest of experiences as a kid. As a teenager, I attended a Catholic all-girls school, typically rife with gossip, of which anyone who was openly LGBTQ+ was frequently the subject.

And so, I spent years ignoring my sexuality by only dating guys. I thought I could continue doing that forever, but holding back made me feel increasingly isolated, miserable and exhausted. I was method acting for so long that the emotional exertion became a drain on my mental wellbeing, and I began to shut myself off and become more and more uncomfortable in my own skin.

My first turning point came a year or so before I went to university when I finally came out to two of my friends who’d openly identified as lesbian and bisexual respectively. This was my first experience of feeling like I could connect and finally talk about sexuality in a safe space. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt a heady sense of relief, as if I’d been holding my breath for a long time. It would be another while until I experienced that same weightlessness, at the end of year one of my degree.

Being at university is something entirely different from what came before, and a place where many of us feel like we can begin being more open about who we are. I was lucky enough to be a part of a university with a very active LGBTQ+ community. Through the LGBTQ+ society I could go to events that celebrated identities out with heteronormativity, a far cry from my high school experience! It was eye-opening, in the best way possible.

I didn’t fully come out until my penultimate year of study. A large part of that decision surprisingly came from the academic side when I came across an author called Katherine Mansfield. I loved her work so much that she ended up being the focal point of my dissertation. The other thing that I fervently admired about her was her unapologetic bisexuality.

I read about her earlier struggles with her identity, and later accounts of her proud adoration of her female partners. I recognised the gradual acceptance of one’s sexuality from my own ongoing development. The fact that my new heroine shared a similar internal battle inspired me to research further into writers who also identified as bisexual, and I was amazed and elated to find out that many of my favourite authors were the same as me. This literary sense of community coupled with the welcoming, safe environment offered by the LGBTQ+ students at university helped me to finally embrace who I was. I can now talk openly about my sexuality and stand up tall as I do so.

The most important part, I think, was that feeling of being a part of something bigger, no longer alien in one’s sexuality. Growing up without the knowledge and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community held me back for years, and I am here to say this: you are not alone. We are here. We are writers. We are artists. We are politicians. We are doctors. We are scientists. We are everything you can think of.

University is a wonderful resource not only for academic learning, but also a means of understanding and loving your identity. Make the most of your university’s LGBTQ+ society, talk and connect with other bisexual students, perhaps even do as I did and find out about how your academic passion correlates with your identity. Always remember that you are part of a community that cares about you and your mental wellbeing. Make the most of your time as a student to embrace your sexuality, I promise you that you won’t regret it. I certainly don’t.

If you'd like further support or information, you can find details for a range of services and organisations listed on our LGBTQ+ Resource Page.


Hello! I'm Eilidh, and I'm from Glasgow. I graduated last year from the University of St Andrews where I studied English Literature. I currently work for Waterstones. I am a passionate advocate for student wellbeing and the importance of mental health support in educational establishments.

5 simple ways to minimise anxiety when travelling abroad alone

Charlotte blogs about ways you can reduce anxiety during a year abroad. 

- Charlotte Day

More and more students are enrolling on university courses which include a year abroad – whether that’s a BA French and German, or an BSc Physics. Summer work in a foreign country is also gaining in popularity with jobs such as au pairing in Spain being just an online application away. Although visiting a foreign nation on your own can be a great way to see more of the world, improve foreign language skills, and aid personal development, it can be a pretty tough experience for those who suffer from anxiety. The prospect of finding yourself in a vulnerable, uncomfortable or compromising situation with no friends or family around us for reassurance can be all too daunting.

Here are 5 simple ways to help try to tackle those anxious feelings:

1. Spend some time researching your destination before you leave.

In the comfort of your own home, research the location where you will be staying. Finding out information such as where the local supermarket, caf├ęs and police station are will help to minimise the uncertainty and stress of the first few days. Also, be sure to have a look over the local laws and customs of your destination to avoid getting into any difficult, yet avoidable, situations – some places have some laws that may seem rather odd to us!

2. Utilise the wonders that are FaceTime and Skype.

Being able to see and hear the familiar face of a friend or family member will certainly help to take your mind off any feelings of loneliness. Even if it’s just a quick 5-minute chat to someone when you’re feeling a bit low, it will likely put you in a positive mind set for the rest of the day.

3. Try not to be afraid of making new friends.

Wherever you’re visiting, there are likely to be other people your age there too. Although perhaps a little easier said than done, you could head to a local bar and try to strike up conversation with some locals. Do be careful if you’re going out alone, and follow the FCO’s recommendations for travelling alone at all times. You may even encounter somebody else visiting the area who is in the same situation as you – many people meet life-long friends whilst travelling! Plus, staying with a group of people makes you less vulnerable to danger than wandering around alone.

4. If you don’t speak the local language fluently, take a phrase book with you.

A phrase book is invaluable for most travellers and will certainly help tackle any anxiety about not being able to be understood. Most phrase books tell you how to pronounce the words and some also have pictures of amenities such as hospitals so you don’t even have to attempt to make yourself understood linguistically – you can just point at where you need directions to!

5. Get enough sleep!

The adrenaline of being in a foreign location can make you feel like you don’t need much sleep, but it’s so important to try to get at least 8 hours a night from day 1. Even if you feel jet-lagged for the first few days, try to adjust to the time zone and get into a regular sleep pattern – tiredness will intensify your stress levels. Take a good book with you to read before bed, it will calm you down and help send you to sleep.

Visiting new places on our own when you suffer from anxiety can be an intense experience, but these simple tricks will help you make the most out of your time away. Happy travelling!

For our Student Minds guide to a Year Abroad for yourself or a friend, click here.



Hey, I'm Charlotte and I'm a second year student at Univeristy College London. I'm writing for Student Minds to open up the conversation and raise awareness about mental health.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Living at home during University

People always talk about what it’s like to move away for University and live in accommodation, but what about those of us who decide to live at home?

- Briony

People decide to live at home for several reasons such as family, mental health and financial reasons. For me I love my hometown and being around family. I’m close with my siblings and didn’t want to miss my niece and nephew growing up. I also knew I would save money and could keep my job.
But mainly, I experienced a lot of anxiety throughout school, and didn’t want University to be similar. Living at home was personally the right decision for me, as I knew I would be in comfortable surroundings and could take myself away from the Uni environment if I felt stressed. Also, how great is it to be able to cuddle your pet when you feel down?! I wouldn’t have my cat living in student accommodation!

Admittedly, I was nervous. Most of my friends were moving away and I was worried I wouldn’t make any friends to go to Freshers with or hang out with in the future. Just before University, I made sure to join all the Facebook groups and get involved. The most important part for me was finding out that there was a ‘Living at Home’ Society. They held a meet and greet before Freshers and I found an awesome group of friends who were also on my course, and who are still my closest friends now! Previously I had felt like I was the only person staying at home but joining the society made me realise that there are lots of people choosing to do it.

There is a downfall of not living on campus though and it’s that we can’t fall out of bed and land in our lecture. Therefore, it’s a good idea to work out how you will get there and back. My original plan was to drive to Uni, but I later found out that I was in the “Postcode Exclusion Zone” and wouldn’t be allowed to park there. Please check out if there are restrictions, and if there are, work out the buses. For me there is no bus that goes directly to campus, so I found the nearest bus stop and did a practice run before first semester. If you can drive, maybe find out if there’s anyone nearby who you can car share with. I’ve seen people do this which means they make friends whilst saving money!

People have told me in the past that I can’t have “the full Uni experience” living at home, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Why should I feel pressured to move away when I like my life where it is and I like the closest Uni to my home? Your experience is what you make of it. I get to be around friends and family outside of Uni, but also get to be involved in Uni social life. It’s the best of both worlds!

So, to conclude: make the decision that is right for you. Not what your friends think, not what your family think…do what you think. Consider the pros and cons of living at home versus moving away, and don’t feel pressured.

And if you’ve just started University living at home, you are not alone! Find out if there is a ‘Living at Home’ Society, and if not, why not form one? Post on Facebook groups for your University and see if you can form a chat with others. You will make friends throughout the year, in societies and on your course, and you will have the “full Uni experience!"



Hey! I am Briony and I am a second year Psychology undergraduate at University of the West of England (UWE). I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have had a strong interest in mental health since I was 13 and aspire to be a Counselling Psychologist. On the side, I write a beauty, alternative fashion, travel and mental health blog at www.sincerelybrionybea.blogspot.co.uk. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Hidden Away: Are you Okay?

Chelsea discusses the challenges of dealing with mental health and coming to terms with accepting help.

- Chelsea Shurland


I have contemplated many times about whether or not I should post this. It opens people up to my world and some of the painful things I have experienced, but I have decided the time is now. The time is now because I want to inspire others to get help and to also share their stories. The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to share your stories and to also show that I am just like you.

I first started experiencing terrible nightmares five years ago. I put it to the back of my mind and thought of it as just a stage that I would get over. No one sees your dreams so they do not know what terror you have experienced during the night. It is almost hidden and secretive; only seen through tired eyes or wry smiles throughout the day. This is like most mental illnesses. Some are more noticeable than others but for the most part people assume you are fine. That was the inspiration for the naming of this post (Hidden away: Are you Okay?) If you are physically unwell it is written across your face or perhaps all over your body with spots or lumps. On the other hand, most people are unable to spot mental health illnesses as it may be hidden away.

So let me continue with my experience… a couple of months ago, my dreams came back again. These dreams were flashbacks of abuse I experienced in my childhood. I was stuck in a rut of negative thinking, negative habits, thoughts spiralling out of control….the list is endless. However, I just put it to the back of mind until one day someone asked me if I was okay. ‘Are you okay?’ They asked. Then tears started streaming. It was then that I decided to seek some sort of help.

This was then followed by three and a half weeks off work whilst I tried to figure out what was wrong. Why couldn’t I just feel better mentally? Why was no one in my house noticing I was upset? Would people think I’m over reacting? Would people believe me? These were the questions I kept asking myself but I just couldn’t figure it out so I decided to go to my GP. I didn’t think he would be able to help but I just needed it and to my surprise, he signed me off work and referred me straight away to the wellbeing team. I felt a sigh of relief but still uncertainty, as I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know what to say to others or how they would receive the information. On my sick note it just said “depressive disorder”. I didn’t feel like going into details of why I was feeling the way I did, so I just said I was unwell.

I went for a whole week without anyone in my house noticing if I was okay which made me feel even more anxious to say how I was feeling. I just wanted someone to ask me “are you okay?” This is no way intended to attack my friends and family but rather to draw attention to how simple phrases such as “are you okay” can make a difference to someone’s day. Simple phrases like “are you okay?” or “have you had a good day?” can really make a difference in ALL situations. Without using these phrases in daily life, no one was able to notice that I was suffering silently like a large percentage of individuals with mental health difficulties do.

As a result of that, I just want to encourage those who are suffering silently or experiencing difficulties to take the step to get help. To those who are on the other side, be aware, be supportive and be patient. We all experience difficult times in our lives and one day you may need someone to say “are you okay?” This hasn’t been easy to do as I am quite a private person but nothing great ever comes from a comfort zone. I want to help others so I hope this helps you to be brave, get help and inspire others too.





Hi my name is Chelsea Shurland and I was born on the sunny island of Barbados. I am 23 years old and I am currently a student at City University London studying Counselling Psychology. I wanted to write for Student Minds as I have realised that one of my purposes in life is to inspire and help  others within the mental health sector.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Never Giving Up

Living away from home isn't always easy, especially for those of us who suffer from mental health difficulties. But there are other ways to complete your degree whilst living at home...

- Katie

Hi, I’ll start this off by introducing myself: I’m Katie, a history student at Queen Mary University of London. Oh, and I suffer from GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). As fate would have it, my mental health started deteriorating just before I started my first year at university (I know. Great planning, brain). Let’s just say first year wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me, but I got help and I got better at dealing with my difficulties.

Of course, mental health issues don’t just disappear: instead, you learn what makes you feel better and what makes you feel worse. By the end of first year, I had realised that what really made me happy was my family. We have always been an extremely close family. Throughout my first year I was coming home every single weekend. Home is where I felt safe.

When first year was finally over and I spent my long summer at home, I found myself dreading the idea of having to start second year and being away from home again. So many of my friends love being at University, having their independence and being able to go out when they want, to eat what they want, and to do what they want – but that’s not me. I even thought about dropping out, but I love my degree. I didn’t want my mental health to dictate my life for me.

So I decided that, for my second year, I would have the best of both worlds (don’t start singing the Hannah Montana theme tune). I would live at home, and complete my history degree, and begin commuting. I live in Norfolk, and it’s a four hour round-trip to and from university, which is one hell of a commute, but I knew that this was the right decision for me. Of course the thought of all that travelling and having to rely on public transport was scary, but as soon as I made that decision, it was like a huge weight had been lifted.

I’m not going to lie: it is a long journey. But I can read, or listen to music or do coursework whilst I travel, and I know that at the end of each day, I’m going back to my home, to my family (and my adorable puppy), and the commute is a small price to pay for all of this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that mental health issues suck. No one wants them and they have a tendency to flare up at the worst of times, but we can’t let these issues dictate how we live our lives. University is a big deal and so many people experience it differently. Just because I live at home and don’t go out partying every night doesn’t mean I’m not a ‘proper student’. No matter how bad things get, it will always get better and there will always be a way for everyone to do what they want to do. I wanted to complete my degree but I wanted to live at home, and I got used to the commute. For anyone thinking about commuting: just give it a go. You might just find that it is the solution to your university dilemmas, like it was for me. Good luck to anyone who might be reading this, and however you’re feeling right now – anxious, apprehensive, excited – I hope that you keep fighting and never give up.


Hello, I’m Katie, a history student in her second year at Queen Mary University of London. Going to university while living with diagnoses of GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can be difficult; I am writing for Student Minds to share my experiences.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

4 reasons why I’m talking about Mental Health

After years of silence, Rosie talks about why she has decided to be open about her mental health.

- Rosie


1. Silence creates shame 

For many years, I remained silent about my mental health problems. I felt like I constantly carried a ‘dirty little secret’ and I lived in fear of it being discovered. In a way, I felt like I had something really ‘disgusting’ about me and this secrecy multiplied the shame I felt. Think of hiding mental health problems like covering wounds with bandages- they often need to be in the open air, or they fester. The shame I have felt is not deserved. I have a right to be treated with respect, understanding, and kindness and to live an open life.

2. I want to live openly

Talking about my mental health feels very exposing. It puts me in a vulnerable position because I open myself up to rejection, stereotyping and shaming that are all too real reactions. But acceptance and compassion are real too. I’m glad that after every time I’m silenced or shamed I carried on speaking because when I have found people who listen, it has made me realise that my shame isn’t deserved. It can take time to find people who you feel safe enough to talk to but when I did, it gave me a sense of belonging.

3. It makes others feel less alone 

Every time someone shares their story and it resonates with me, I am inspired to continue to share mine. I believe ‘me too’ is one of the most powerful sentences we have because it tells people that they are not alone in what they go through- this can be a huge relief! Since I started sharing my experiences on my blog and Twitter, Talking About BPD, I have had thousands of tweets from people saying they can relate to me and one another. This sense of community, built through shared experiences, enables people to feel more compassion towards themselves because they see themselves reflected in others. It’s often easier to feel compassion towards others than ourselves, but if we can see ourselves in others we might become more able to extend that compassion towards ourselves too.

4. It breaks down stereotypes

When I talk openly about my mental health people are often shocked because they don’t expect me to have mental health problems. I tell them that there is no personality type for a mental illness! Yet, the ‘face of mental illness’ in the media is not accurate and does not reflect the fact that mental health conditions can affect anyone. My main diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and when I share my story, I show that I’m a sister, a friend, a primary school teacher, a masters student, a spoken word writer- and I have BPD. Anyone might have BPD, you cannot tell by looking. People with BPD are some of the friendliest, most caring, fun and creative people you could ever meet!

I would love you to join the conversation with me, Rosie, over at Talking About BPD, on Twitter @TalkingAboutBPD or at http://talkingaboutbpd.blogspot.co.uk/. It would be great if you wanted to share your story with the growing number of voices talking about their experiences.





Hi I'm Rosie from Talking About BPD, a blog sharing my journey from silence to talking about mental health. I'm a primary school teacher and a Medical Humanities student aiming to open up conversations about mental health. I would love you to join the conversation with me on Twitter @TalkingAboutBPD. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A BPD’s Favourite Person

Erin opens up about her experience of a non-clinical symptom that is very familiar among people with Borderline Personality Disorder. She draws upon the importance of being as open about your mental illness as possible and how it can aid your journey to recovery.

- Erin Cadden


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an illness that not many people are familiar with. Honestly, I wasn’t sure of the definition of BPD until a psychologist told me I displayed signs of it. Mental illnesses are highly stigmatised in general but BPD is particularly misunderstood and misrepresented.

A common symptom of BPD that I have personally experienced is having a “favourite person” (FP). Some BPD sufferers are able to easily identify their favourite person and are aware of how they have come to be attached to this person. For me, the realisation that I had a favourite person only came when my relationship with that individual ended. It was only then that I was aware that how I felt towards him wasn’t entirely normal.

An FP can vary by person; In my early childhood, my FP was my mother. For years I struggled with not being near her. Whenever I had to leave her to attend school, parties or sleepovers my anxiety would become increasingly worse. Extreme anxiety and panic attacks meant my social activities and interactions were limited.

When I started university, I met someone with whom I had a great connection. I no longer saw my mother on a daily basis, therefore, my FP transferred to someone new. This new FP was the boy I fell in love with, during the start of university. Despite the fact I may have often said otherwise, he was a great person. He was with me at the lowest points of my mental illness, helping me through episodes that even my mum and sisters hadn’t experienced with me yet.

The connection between someone with BPD and their FP is a bond that, in their eyes, will never be broken. Everything you think about and everything you do revolves around this person you idolise. You emotionally rely heavily on them; you feel they are the only person capable of making you happy. For an FP this can be draining, but for someone with BPD experiencing this reliance, it is equally as exhausting.

It is only now that I realise how dangerous this attachment can be for both the FP and BPD sufferer. Eventually, my FP couldn’t cope. My illness meant it, that I was a difficult person to love.

When my FP wasn’t constantly by my side, I experienced a lot of anxiety which led to the return of frequent panic attacks. My FP found this difficult to deal with. My fears that my FP would one day leave eventually came true. I felt my life was worthless and pointless without my FP constantly by my side. Unfortunately for me, this devastation led to a life threatening situation. Luckily I realised I needed help and was able to begin my journey to recovery.

I feel it is important to note that my FP could have been anyone that I connected with in life. I did not need to necessarily be in love with my FP. Feelings of being in love and the feelings of attachment to an FP are quite different. However, when they occur simultaneously they make relationships difficult. We lacked the awareness and understanding of my illness that was necessary to make our relationship work.

For a long time, I hated him for being the person who gave up on me. The immediate aftermath of the end of our relationship was hard because I had to try to grieve the loss of my FP but also recover from the heartbreak of a breakup, while trying to accept my mental illness. We no longer have any form regular contact and though I might not always want to admit it, I will always be extremely grateful for his presence in my life, good and bad. Although what I had to go through was far from pleasant at the time, I am grateful for the experience, in the sense that, I am now aware of what my mind is capable of.

Showing your appreciation for anyone in your life, especially those who help you through your worst episodes is so important. I have learnt to open my heart to trust more than just one person. Learn not to be sad when people can’t stand by you through your lowest of your mental health. It is not a judge of faulty in your character, but an example of a weakness in theirs. I am now the strongest and happiest I have ever been, and unfortunately, for those who have not stuck by me, they will not get to experience this.




Hi, my name is Erin, I am currently in my final year studying Design Management at UAL in London. I shave suffered from my mental health from the age of 10 years old. My diagnoses are still ongoing but suspected off; Depression, Anxiety, Autism, Bipolar and Borderline personality disorder. I began writing for Student Minds in order to share my own experiences of my journey with mental health. The aim is to increase awareness and to decrease the stigma attached to mental illnesses as a whole.




12 Runs, 12 Months – Reaching the Halfway Mark

Andrew writes why he chose to fundraise for Student Minds and take on 12 Runs in 12 Months as he reaches his half way mark. 
- Andrew Mobey

Wimbledon 30/7/2017
Having completed my 1st ever half marathon in June, I felt a bit more optimistic about the July half marathon in the beautiful Wimbledon Common. It was also flat, which meant most runners were expecting a quick time. For me, it was just about finishing and hopefully beating my last time. However, I came into trouble with the ‘Morbey Hamstring’ as my mother puts it. One thing you can never prepare for is whether or not your body will be able to handle the strain of running 13.1 miles. But I did finish, even managing to beat my previous time, but going forward I would have to look after my body, both physically and mentally.  

Severn Bridge 27/8/2017
This half marathon will forever hold a special place in my heart. I had decided that I would start creating vlogs after my races to capture my true emotions and talk honestly about my mental health. An incident occurred 2 weeks before in London, which lead to me having to cancel another fundraiser I had planned. Without going into too much detail, I had fallen back into my old habits, you can see the vlog here: 

video

But that is another story though. The race took place on the border of Wales and England, with the starting line in the middle of the Severn Bridge. As well as fighting through another gruelling 13.1 miles of hills, beautiful Welsh/English countryside and crying a few times along the way, I’d managed to complete the run, again beating my previous best time. Throughout the race, I found my head was the main thing holding me back, continuously doubting my abilities and mental strength to finish the race. I began realising that these sorts of doubts are the same that I deal with on a daily basis and by completing these races, I can overcome these doubts!

Pembrokeshire 24/9/2017
Taking place on the West Coast of Wales, with views overlooking the Milford Haven, and the Pembrokeshire hilly countryside, it was a very special and beautiful run. Being in such an isolated part of the world, with roads only large enough for one car at a time and the feeling of being on the edge of the world, there were only a hundred or so competitors. The route was amazing, running to the tip of St Annes Head up to Marloes Sands. During the run, it gave me time to reflect on my life, how my mental health is and where I want to be in a few years. Using fundraisers like 12 Runs, 12 Months, it allows me to exercise my health and fight the many doubts I may have that not only occur during the runs, but also in my professional, working life. It was the perfect run to celebrate the halfway point of this fundraiser.



As the UK university year is just starting to kick off, where most freshers leave their home and move to a new city, it’s important to keep your mind active and exercise your mental health. Finding new challenges may bring on a lot of anxieties and doubts about yourself, but you might just start finding yourself having fun, just as I have re-found my old love for running. Donate to Andrew's challenge and find out more here.


I am a twenty-five-year-old Aussie bloke, afer buying my one-way ticket and making the big move, I came into contact with Student Minds and applied for their Fundraising Champions initiative earlier this year, and when I was elected, my head filled up with ideas on how I can help break down this mental health stigma. I wanted to start by sharing my story with Student Minds and the extended mental health community.


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Post-University Depression

"Almost nothing can prepare you for the change from university to the real world. Post-university depression is a real thing and it is time we start talking about it."

Tazmin


Let’s talk about something that a lot of people will be feeling right now, but what some people may not take seriously – post-university depression.

I remember my first year of university in a seminar where we watched a few scenes from ‘The Graduate’. I then went onto watch the whole film myself and since finishing university, I relate to and understand this film on a whole new level. There is no denying that university can cause an increase in poor mental health however, leaving university is no exception to this. It just spins the web further into ‘What an earth is going on?’ ‘Where am I?’ ‘Who am I?’ and I guess it gets to a point where we just need to laugh it off and power through.

University can be the best years of our young adult life. We are independent, but not. We are getting ‘free-ish’ money, an interest free overdraft, we’re probably drunk all the time and we make new friends every day. We are on an adventure of self-discovery but we are human and a lot of us do not truly realise the greatness of what we have until it’s gone.

Us post student-adults need some kind of halfway house equivalent that’s not our parents’ house, to help us get our heads together on this absolute nonsense known as ‘the real world’. It’s all the same; we all cry about having no money, struggle to find a job of some kind and then probably go travelling.

I’ve got to say to you adult-adults, there’s a lot of pressure on us student-adults to wake up and be adults and I’ve got to tell you, that’s not how the cookie crumbles. We are 22 and most of us haven’t the foggiest of what to do and how to do it. I was surer of myself before I started university than after I came out of it. The pressure that we can feel can make the journey of self-discovery incredibly unbearable. We’re not terrible people, we’re not lazy, we’re just a little bit lost and that needs to be seen as okay.

I’m not going to lie, there are some people who just have their act together. Before they have even finished university they’ve sorted a job, a house and a little money but this doesn’t mean they still don’t feel a little bit dazed and blinded by the real world.

I would say that the post-university blues make you feel as though you have gone back. At university it feels as though you are getting some kind of independence; you’re finding out who you are, what you like, what you don’t and the kind of person you want to become. But then you may go back home and realise this just is not who you are anymore and you may be constantly pressured to just become an adult and have everything together.

But adulthood and maturity comes with experience and a lot of mistakes.

There are 40 year olds who don’t have a clue what they want to do with their lives, and that is ok, so it should be the same for us post-university students.

As someone who had a teary breakdown this morning to their sister, don’t let the pressure of the real world determine what you think you should do. Take a deep breath. Take your time. Because no matter who is advising you what to do, no matter what identity turmoil you may be in, it is your life. Remember that. You’re the one who’s going to have to live it. So do what you think is right.
Don’t rush yourself. The university chapter of your life may have ended. You’re just adjusting to the change.

None of us knew what to expect in the real world, but let me tell you a secret, no one ever does; even the most ‘adulty-adults’ don’t really have a clue. The world is different every day. No matter how old you are, no matter what you’ve seen or done, we’re all just trying to find out who we are and what we want.

Don’t fear the unknown. Try and enjoy it. The world is at your feet.



Hey guys, it’s Tazmin. My journey suffering with severe depression and anxiety has been a difficult one; but I would not be who I am today had I not accepted my illness and worked to get better. I have just graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First in Film and Media Production, something which I thought I'd never do.  I’ve had my blog Awareness for two years and it has been so rewarding for me; I want my writing to help, inspire and touch people. I now wish to support and encourage anyone who is suffering through university with this blog. Happy reading! (awarenessbytazmin.wordpress.com)


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

6 Ways to Prepare for University


Becky writes about preparing for University 
- Becky Reed

Results day has been and gone, and perhaps things are starting to become a bit more real. If you’re reading this, it is likely that in a few weeks you will move away from home and begin the next chapter of your life at University. Firstly, congratulations! It’s not easy gaining a place at University, and you have probably gone through a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get this far. So, well done!

I wanted to write this blog for those of you who are struggling with the prospect of moving to University. If your experience is anything like mine, everyone you speak to is excited about moving away from home, starting a new chapter, and preparing for the ‘best years of their life.’ But, for some of us, the thought of all this change can be overwhelming. And that’s ok.

For as long as I can remember anxiety has been part of my life. It, however, had been manageable until 6 months before moving to University. I suffered a traumatic event, and from that moment, things began to spiral out of control rapidly. I was diagnosed with PTSD, generalised anxiety, and depression. I took all the help available – talking to close friends and family, attending psychotherapy, and taking anti-depressants. Yet, I still struggled. I questioned if I could cope away from the support I desperately needed. I searched for advice from people who had moved to University with a mental illness. There is a lot of information of what to do if you suffer with your mental illness while at University, but less on what to do in preparation.  Now that I am going into my final year, and have learnt to thrive with my mental illness, I want to tell you some things that helped me.

Take a day trip to where you’re moving to. 
Whether you have or haven’t already visited, a visit may help answer some questions. You could find the local supermarket, check out bus routes, or find the local GP.

Get in contact with the Universities student support services. 
You will be able to gain support from mental health & disability advisors, counsellors, mentors etc. Contacting them before means you know where help is from day one. They may also be able to provide some extra information or advice before you make the move. This is also the place to ask about Disability Student Allowance (DSA). The DSA can provide funding for resources that may help your emotional wellbeing. 

Register with a GP. 
This is especially important if you are on medication. Even if you aren’t, it can relieve some anxiety, as you know where help is should you need it. 

Have a plan for when you experience a mental health day. 
Know what works for you and how you can implement it in your new environment. Personally, when I had a bad day I needed to get on my bike. So, I made sure I could take my bike with me, and knew how to store it. It can be easy to get swept away with University, especially during fresher’s week, but just remember what you need to do to stay well. 

Prepare to make your room your own. 
Moving into halls is great, but if you don’t make it your own it could just feel like you’re staying in someone else’s room for a year. Print off photos; buy some cushions– whatever will make it feel like yours. 

Consider the drinking culture of university. 
This was a massive contributing factor to my anxiety levels pre-moving. Due to the medication I was on, I was not allowed to drink. I feared people would think I was boring, and thought it would see me left out of many things. Since moving to University I have seen that people generally respect your attitude to drinking. I would not have believed that at the height of a MH crisis. It’s a good idea to have a plan for what to say when someone asks you if you’d like a drink. Thanks for reading! Be kind to yourself over the next few weeks. It’s natural to be nervous, but if you feel you are struggling, make sure you get the help you need, perhaps talk this through with someone you trust to come up with a plan that will work for you.


Most importantly, good luck! Have a brilliant time at University.



Hey, I’m Becky. I’m a final year student studying Sport and Social Sciences at the University of Bath. I have been living with generalised anxiety for a number of years, and have, more recently, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and episodes of severe depression. I wanted to write for Student Minds to show there’s light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it seems. Thank you for reading - I hope it has helped you.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

LGBT+ Mental Health and Coming Out

¨I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance.¨

-Bell Hooks


Questions about who we are and what we choose to hide from people is something intrinsically human and in many ways also connected to our physical and psychological wellbeing. Mental health and identity constructions have strong links, which those of us in the LGBTQ community who have experienced different health issues can confirm.

What is it that allows us to define ourselves through our sexuality? Is this a good thing that is absolutely necessary for the formation of our characters or completely insignificant for the lives we then decide to lead? While everyone should have the opportunity to decide these things for themselves, in a society that continues to breed and nurture LGBT+-related discriminatory practices, it is not always possible for us to do.

My research is about these particular experiences for young people, and why it is so important to stop these prejudices, promote openness and acceptance, and reach out to each other.

We know enough to be able to say that LGBT+ individuals, particularly young LGBT+ people, are at a higher risk of developing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and are almost three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts (Burton et al., 2013; Lea et al., 2014; Marshal et al 2011). Stress is a key factor for mental health and is caused and maintained by a range of factors, including prejudice and discrimination. In addition to this challenge and the alienation from the rest of society, LGBT+ youth also have to deal with general pressures such as leaving home, finding work or studying and integrating into new communities.

In attempt to avoid judgement and stigma, hiding can seem like an enticing option. But it often doesn’t have the desired protective effect. There is proof that our attempts to conceal our sexual identity can affect us mentally and physically (Quinn & Earnshaw, 2013). The act of revealing one's true identity can be a profound form of liberation from self-imposed stigma and allow people to become part of the LGBT+ community and receive social support - in effect, feel less isolated.

Writer and transgender rights activist Janet Mock has said, “Our stories are ours. They belong to us and we should be able to tell them - not at the convenience of others but when we are ready”. So how important is the role of concealment among LGBT+ youth? And how will this affect their mental health and wellbeing? I strongly believe in the importance of delving into some of these questions and proving that elements like storytelling, social support and freedom of expression can play a crucial role in shedding light on our sexual and gender identities and accepting ourselves for who we are or want to be.

There is always the risk of receiving a hurtful comment from someone closed-minded or ignorant. Remember you haven’t done anything wrong - the problem lies with them. Once we can embrace our “otherness” and our differences, we can leave behind that sense of always looking at ourselves through the eyes of others.

It is important to remember that while LGBT+ people are at a higher risk of developing mental health difficulties, the majority of LGBT+ people are thriving. So why is it that some people are more affected than others? This is something that we don’t have all the answers to. That's why my research focuses on looking at the different ways people cope with challenges like stigma, discrimination and mental health difficulties. I hope that research projects like my own become more common and can slowly begin to change our view of LGBT+ people and mental health, making sure that those who do suffer from mental health difficulties don’t become isolated and can be empowered to reach out.

...


Georgina is a PhD Student, conducting research to understand and intervene with mental health problems in LGBT+ students. This research is being conducted by the LGBT Mental Health Research Group at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London. You can find out more about the research here .
Participants are being recruited to take part in a study on stigma and mental health in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) community. They are looking for UK University and College students who identify as a sexual or gender minority to take part in their research. You can be a part of their study by filling in this survey.


If you'd like further support or information, you can find details for a range of services and organisations listed on our LGBTQ+ Resource Page.
The LGBT Foundation have some great tips for coming out, follow the link to find out more here.
“Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to come out. The important thing is to do it the way you want to and the way you feel comfortable.” - The LGBT Foundation



Burton, C. M., Marshal, M. P., & Friedman, M. S. (2013). Sexual Minority-Related Victimization as a Mediator of Mental Health Disparities in Sexual Minority Youth : A Longitudinal Analysis, 394–402. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9901-5

Lea, T., Wit, J. De, & Reynolds, R. (2014). Minority Stress in Lesbian , Gay , and Bisexual Young Adults in Australia : Associations with Psychological Distress , Suicidality , and Substance Use. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0266-6

Marshal, M. P., Dietz, L. J., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., Smith, H. A., McGinley, J., … Brent, D. A. (2011). Suicidality and depression disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49(2), 115–123. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.02.005

Quinn, D. M. & Earnshaw, V. A.(2013) . Concealable Stigmatized Identities and
Psychological WellBeing. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 7(1): 40–51. doi:10.1111/spc3.12005

Friday, 15 September 2017

10 things you need to know about Mental Health at University

Jodie writes about the 10 things it is helpful to know about mental health at university. 
- Jodie Goodacre

University is so often talked about as being the best years of your life, a place where you will make life long friends, get involved with many societies and gain independence.  However, this is a large leap in a person’s life and it can bring with it a number of difficulties. Students are warned about the stress that studying at university will bring with it, as well as potential mental health issues that may arise. However, what is not often discussed is the level at which mental health problems exist, with the number of students dropping out from university courses due to mental illness increasing significantly in recent years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mental health difficulties are more prevalent in university students than the general population with 75% of all mental health difficulties developing in individuals by their mid-20s (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2010). It is recognised that a student’s mental wellbeing will directly impact on their performance academically, the friendships created and their overall experience at the university. It is not simply in the best interests of the university to invest time and money into the wellbeing of their students (and staff), but in fact it is their duty to do so. 

For those considering going to university, for those with friends or family going to university, for those in the education system and for all, these are the ten things that you need to know about mental health at university. 

1.  Academic pressure can fuel mental health difficulties
Whilst the majority of students will have joined university straight after completing their A-levels or similar qualifications and work pressure is nothing new to them, the sheer intensity can come as quite a shock. University is likely to be the first time that a student is asked to learn independently, to manage their own time and to think outside of the box, creating their own ideas far beyond a textbook. It is important that whilst at university you make time for self care and to know that your results do not define you or your worth.

2. Financial strain will become a larger strain than you first imagine 
Another huge pressure is the financial implications of going to university. Financial stress can drive mental health difficulties; expensive tuition fees alongside uncertain job prospects mean students are becoming ever more stressed about whether the costs incurred will pay off. If you would like some more advice on how to manage your finances you will be able to find some information here.

3. A routine is essential to your mental health at university
At university, the ball is well and truly in your corner. You choose to attend lectures, if you skip them there will unlikely be any follow up unless you are regularly skipping. You choose what time to wake up and go to bed. For many, self-management can be incredibly difficult, there are different social events on different evenings, there are deadlines at different stages, it won’t always be easy, or possible to stick to a regular routine and losing this structure can have a really big impact on productivity and wellbeing. Start the year in the way you wish to continue, use bullet journals, diaries, calendars – whatever it is you find helpful to your own organisation

4. Social media is a blessing and a curse 
I am sure this is nothing new to many students, however, at university social media seems to become ‘more central’ to the experience: friend requests left, right and centre, tagged photos, house party invites. Social media in general is known to have both positive and detrimental impacts to a person’s mental health, with a whole network allowing us to judge ourselves and our lives against others. The constant and sometimes relentless stream of status updates and photos of people appearing to have a good time can turn social media into an area of competition instead of relaxation. It is important to reclaim social media and make it a more honest place – you can share your best night in here.

5. Living in halls is not as scary as it first seems 
The thought of living with complete strangers can be scary at first, but there are many thousands of others taking this step as they start university. It is important to try and make your room as homely as possible, put up your favourite photos, get nice bedding and make it your own. Why not buy some tea and biscuits for that first social meeting with your new housemates? It is also ok if you do not get on with your house mates, there are plenty of other ways to meet people at university. It will be useful to prepare yourself before you move in order to make the transition smooth.

6. Living at home can be beneficial and isolating at the same time
When you picture a university student, you may imagine students living away from home but what about the 27% of students living at home (Guardian, 2017). You will have to try harder to fit in with close groups that live together. This is especially noticeable in first year following ‘freshers’, which is definitely not made for students living at home and you may notice most of your friends are from your course rather than across university courses – be sure not to shoot off straight after lectures, stay around and socialise if you are able to as it can feel very isolating at times.

7. Making friends 
Being at university is not purely about studying, it is a whole experience, and socialising is a very important aspect. Students are put in the same position, thrown into a new environment, often not knowing anyone else – you become a very small fish, in a very large pond. It can be very overwhelming and very anxiety provoking, but a great chance to meet likeminded people. The first person you meet might not be your best friend for life and that is okay. If you are lucky, you might develop strong friendships that will last a lifetime. People may find this time in their lives difficult; know what to look out for in Student Minds Look After Your Mate guide.

8. Fresher’s week may damage more than your liver
Fresher’s week, the start of the university year. It is a great way to meet people, make friends, relax and slowly ease into university life. Whilst this period is usually seen as a student essential, the sheer amount of clubbing, events and most notable… alcohol can become too frequent and prove overwhelming for some. Please, look after yourself and watch your alcohol consumption. Also if you do not drink that is also ok and there will be other students who are exactly the same as you can read here.

9. Societies give you a much needed break from university work  
There are lots of ways to embed yourself into your university community and joining societies is one of them. Always wanted to try out something new? Been part of a club at home for years? Attend your societies fair or check out your student union website to find out what societies are available at your university. This can be a great way to meet likeminded people and have fun outside of the academic pressures of university.

10. Services are there for you, make use of them 
At university there are a variety of services to support students such as a doctor’s surgery and a wellbeing centre. When at school you will have had a large amount of contact with the staff, however at university you will have minimal contact hours with staff and thus sadly much less likely for them to pick up on symptoms of poor mental wellbeing, unless you bring it to their attention. It is very important that you speak to your tutors and also the wellbeing centre when you need that additional support. Find out what further support is available to you here.



Hey! I am Jodie, a final year Geography student from Hertfordshire living with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Type 2 and Anxiety. I am a passionate Mental Health Campaigner, having worked across the UK delivering speeches in schools, speaking with ministers at the department of health, working with the media all with the aim of raising awareness and reducing stigma.  I am thrilled to be working with Student Minds to continue this journey in highlighting the difficulties that can come with education whilst showing that life can continue with a mental illness, you can achieve greatness just like someone without a mental health condition.







Thursday, 14 September 2017

I got involved with Student Minds because...

Our Steering Group & Volunteers share why they got involved with Student Minds. 
- Student Minds Steering Group 

"I supported a friend experiencing eating difficulties at university and I didn't know where to go or who to talk to about how to support a friend. I was put in touch with Student Minds and loved the message they were sending out and how nurturing the charity is."

"I did not want students to feel as alone and unable to speak out like I did when I was going through depression and anxiety at university, so I set up a Student Minds campaigns group. This was an essential part of my journey with my own mental health and allowed me to create a community on my campus where it was okay to talk about mental health."

"What I appreciated the most when I have been going through difficult times is someone who would just listen and encourage, being there but not trying to ‘solve’ you - I saw this was Student Minds approach and it really appealed to me so I got involved."

"I wanted to give others the opportunity to voice how they were feeling in an accepting environment. When I found things difficult my friends and school didn't really know what to do - I didn't want others to experience this so I became a volunteer for Student Minds."

"The prevalence of mental health difficulties in the LGBTQ+ community is something that needs more attention, I wanted to support a charity that is making a positive change."

"I got involved on a whim, not thinking I could make a difference, but I flourished and the most rewarding things has been being able to use my experience of mental health difficulties to help others and work out what recovery is for me."

"Friends and family of mine have experienced eating difficulties, and I felt both them and myself at times lacking support and guidance. I saw how a friend of mine left university due to her mental health difficulties and thought that any extra support I could be involved in creating was very worthwhile."

"I wanted to do more to help people, I found myself a natural source of support for my peer group and I wanted to do this in a safe way."

"In my third year, after a difficult time with my mental health at university previously I began to feel a part of something bigger, part of the student community and part of Student Minds. I wanted to be able to make a difference and help others get through what I had."


Steering Group Weekend 2017

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Hitting “rock-bottom” and how to get back up

Michael shares his story of experiencing mental health issues.
- Michael Rigby


I guess my mental health concern came throughout childhood. I was just another one of those kids who would be treated differently due to being overweight. My first problem came when I was in my last year of secondary school. The stress of my exams was just one factor that caused a lot of stress in my life at the time. My focus was also on losing as much weight as I could and I achieved that. However, I ended up making myself very ill. The real issue that really effected me during this time was that I completely messed up my exams. The exams that were supposed to open doors to the future. My stress and anxiety levels had created me to be very weak and I just couldn't concentrate.

Two years of college, enrolled onto a course that wasn't my first choice. I wasn't satisfied with the position that I had got myself in. However, I felt my choices were limited. I felt that I had failed myself and that I was still being punished. I use to sit there in the classroom thinking about the time I messed up my exams and what caused me to lead to that extreme. I would often interact with others on the same course and I did make friends. However, this wasn't what I worked hard for. I felt my potential was never shown to others. My mind was always in a different place and people wouldn't even recognise that I was suffering, “suffering in silence”. I completed the two-years with ease and achieved top grades. However, that was still not good enough for me.

The Two-Years Of Quitting- The worst two years of my life came within my time at college. My mind would always take over me in any situation. Whether it was learning to drive, socialising with friends or whilst at the gym. I just wasn't interested in anything I loved to do. I quit driving because I couldn't concentrate and I felt it was unsafe to keep learning. My friends would ask me to do something and I would make up an excuse. The gym, this is a place where I always enjoyed going, I quit my membership. These were just three things I quit during that time. I ended up staying in my bedroom staring at the ceiling whilst getting stressed about anything. I still didn't want to talk about it.

It's Time To Talk- My time to talk came in the last few months of college. My parents were worried about me so they had contacted my college tutor for help. I was given an appointment to see the college counsellor, I told her everything. I went from feeling I had a weight on my back too feeling calm for a while. I realised it was good to talk about things. She understood everything and put her time into helping me. In some ways counselling did help me. However, I also found that I was strong enough to get back up from, “hitting rock-bottom”. Sometimes, I would still get confused because I'm very good at helping others rather than myself. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that. My first step to getting back up, was signing up for the gym again. And I've been attending ever since. My advice on the way to get back up is to take a “step by step” regime. Gradually restart your passions that you always loved or start new interests. It's your choice and don't let anybody stop you.

I'm currently a University student in London. Over the past year I took some time out for a gap-year and a break from education. I feel it's the best decision I've ever made. It's vital that everyone, “takes a moment”. Give yourself time to rebuild and create a solid mind for the future. Take my advise, KEEP ON GOING! DON’T GIVE UP!

Hi, I'm Michael Rigby and I study Sports Business and Broadcasting at UCFB Wembley. I have experienced a mental illness such as; depression/social anxiety since the age of 14.



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How to: Navigate Uni with a Dissociative Disorder


Recognising mental illness at university can be hard. Especially, as with dissociative disorders, they aren't talked about very often.
-Elise Jackson

University is undoubtedly amazing. However, getting through the first year can be a challenge for many. Moving away from everything that is familiar, meeting a diverse array of completely new people and having to adapt to an entirely new way of learning is not easy, to say the least. For me, the summer before I started university was the hardest of my life. I lost a lot. My mum had moved half way across the country, my family sold the only home I’d ever known and my friends, destined for universities up and down the country, had to say goodbye. This summer of loss was made only more difficult, by a previous, truly world shattering, loss that occurred during my A-level exams. Four days before my 18th birthday, I lost my big brother to SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). It was one week before his 22nd birthday. We came to terms with it somehow but grieving whilst simultaneously moving house, sitting A-level exams and leaving home for the first time to embark on my new student life, unsurprisingly, proved difficult. 

I struggled. Within two days of being at university, my parents had phoned the university to help me get some support. I was in the counseling service before the end of Freshers. The counselors were brilliant, very understanding, informed, and acted immediately. Thankfully, when I had settled in, things got better fast. My entire block of fellow first years was super sociable. We spent a lot of time living as one huge flat. I was also lucky enough to have one of my best friends from home living two blocks down. Between my block and his flat, housing for second year was sorted by mid-November. Things were going well so I stopped going to counseling. 
But.
 The thing about mental health is that it can fluctuate, it's somewhat unpredictable. Around February time I had to return my mum's new home in Norfolk for a few days because I felt... wrong. At the time, I thought it was exhaustion and decided a few days at home would solve it. And it did, for a little while. These short periods of what I can only describe as fogginess came to every couple of months but always passed within a week or so. Exams came and went and summer returned. 

During summer, I’m often between places. I usually choose to spend most of the holiday period in Sussex as it is where the majority of my friends are. It also means I can be close to my dad’s family. Reflecting on that first summer of University, I think I must have felt it coming to some extent but not really acknowledged it. I went to stay in Norfolk and something hit me like a tidal wave. This time, I was forced to realize that something was going on in my brain that couldn’t be simply solved by a week at home. I lived for a month feeling like I wasn’t in my own body. I felt I was watching life through a hazy screen. Eventually, I found out that I was suffering from DPD (depersonalization disorder), triggered by depression. 

When I returned to uni, I found out about Student Minds and began volunteering for them. I decided I needed to take control of my own brain. My mental health still fluctuates a lot. I’ll often be feeling fine and then become unwell for a few months. Learning how to deal with this has been the biggest challenge of my second year. Dissociative disorders are not often talked about nor are they well researched. During a relapse, I feel drunk all the time or like a robot who can’t feel anything under the surface. Knowing that there are ways to reconnect with your body is the most important thing. I practice mindfulness, meditation and yoga to stay connected to my body and remain grounded. I intend to return to counseling. But as always, more needs to be done, but I remain optimistic that it will.



Hello! I'm Elise. I'm currently in my final year studying English Language and Literature at the University of Nottingham. My writings for Student Minds will range from pieces about depression and DPD to coping with loss, bereavement and change during your studies - all the while remaining mindful and getting the most out of university life. Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Mental Health Over Summer: Rachael's Experience

Rachael shares her experience of how best to work and rest during the summer.
- Rachael Johnston


What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

I try and keep myself as occupied as possible.  To keep focused, it’s really important for me to plan ahead and have things set in my diary to look forward to. My previous job as a teaching assistant meant I had the whole summer off; however, I’m now a support worker supporting children with additional needs, which makes this summer a bit different.

What do you like to do during the summer?

I have my birthday over the summer, so there is usually the build up to that. I took two weeks annual leave to be able to have some time with my family and friends to celebrate.  I have had a short weekend away with my mum, which was nice, and I braved a massage. I’ve never had a massage, so I’ve decided I want to try and keep up to see if it helps me unwind a bit more.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

When we do get the sun, it usually means shorts and strappy tops. Currently my weight isn’t great, so I’m very body conscious. I also have scarring from self-harm. This summer, I’ve been a bit braver, and on really hot days I’ve just thought ‘sod it’! Then there are the big events and get-togethers! Usually it’s a time when everyone seems to go out and there is never a reasonable excuse not to go, so I try and tell myself to give it a go. If things do get too overwhelming, I can always go, so I find myself driving to places and ditching the alcohol in favour of a quick exit if I need it.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

I’ve never been a fan of the summer holiday, even when I was in school.  I like being busy and having something to do. So I do notice that when my brain isn’t occupied, I start to feel low. However, when I’ve not been in university for a while, I start to become anxious about going back.  I check and recheck my personalised plan so I can reassure myself that any new tutors know what additional steps need to be taken. I suppose that’s the thing with mental health: no matter what I do, that little voice never seems to be satisfied.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

I’d say plan ahead. If you’re struggling, don’t bottle it in.  If you’re not up to do something which you have planned, be honest and don’t just cancel, my friends have either been able to talk me round into going out for a little while, or they’re happy to find a good film and stay in.
If you have appointments through the summer, stick to them, get to them even if you’d rather be sitting in. Sometimes it helps your therapists to see you in person when you’re really down, to get a fuller understanding of your situation.
To avoid staying stuck in a cycle of wearing the same clothes for days, I also try and set an alarm to have a fixed time when I have to have a shower and change.


Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.



Hi, I’m Rachael. I’ve been blogging on and off for a few years now around my experience of living with Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder. Although I’m meant to be on a break from university this summer I requested an extension for my last assignment due to a dip in my mental health, so I’ve been able to keep myself occupied with this summer with uni work and my job as a support worker.
https://thejourneyback2life.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/to-the-bone/