1. The UK website d-stress.org.uk says this:
Everyone has physical health: it's the state your body is in.
Everyone has mental health too: it's the way you feel in your mind, or the state your feelings are in. But your physical health and your mental health are very individual to you - what feels 'normal', healthy and good for one person doesn't necessarily feel 'normal', healthy and good for another.
Physical health changes all the time because it depends on so many things like...
- Whether you're eating and sleeping well.
- Whether you have a virus or an infection.
- Whether you're doing a lot of exercise.
- How you're feeling in yourself.
Mental health also changes all the time and it depends on all kinds of different things too, like...
- Whether you're feeling good about yourself.
- Whether you're getting on with your family and friends.
- Whether there are lots of things stressing you out.
- Whether you're feeling physically well.
- Whether you're sleeping and eating well.
Some people may feel great without doing much exercise, others need to do lots of activity to feel healthy. Some people can cope with loads of stress without feeling under pressure - they may even enjoy it! But other people begin to feel anxious and unhappy if they have a lot of stress to cope with.
There are lots of things in life which can be stressful, and there are different ways of coping with these. A certain amount of stress can be useful in giving you energy, and if there weren't any stresses at all, we'd end up as vegetables. But generally speaking, the more stresses of different kinds which you have to cope with, the more likely you are to feel anxious, or down, or not 'normal' for you.
When should I worry about my mental health?
Some things in life are great, and exciting and pleasurable, and other things difficult and hard to deal with. Your moods and emotions are ways of showing how you're feeling and coping with the things you're going through. Because of this its not surprising that sometimes your moods may be 'up and down'. You'll probably recognise this in your friends and family too, particularly if they're going through difficult times.
Most of the time, you'll probably be able to carry on with everyday life even when things are difficult - but you may find different ways of coping and dealing with things until life gets easier, and these ways may not always be helpful in the long run.
- You may be sleeping more or less than usual,
- eating more or less than usual,
- not able to concentrate like you normally do.
- You may be short tempered or angry.
- You may feel you want to drink or smoke more.
- You may want to escape from the difficulties by avoiding other people, or getting drunk or stoned, or having lots of sex.
- You may be feeling very anxious and panicky about things.
- You may lose your self confidence and worry about things which normally wouldn't bother you.
- You may be spending more and more time 'in your head', and finding it hard to get back to reality.
There may come a time when you find that these ways of coping become problems too.
You may also feel so stressed or worried that you can't carry on doing the things which you normally have to do.
If you recognise this, it will help to talk to someone about the things which you're going through. It may not feel easy to do this, but sharing your difficulties, or getting more information, will help you to feel less on your own.
- Talk to a friend or someone in the family.
- Talk to someone at college or university (a tutor, or a counsellor, or a mentor).
- Talk to your GP.
- Find out more information about your difficulties and what could help you with them - use the information on this web-site, or contact the numbers given.
- Talk to a helpline.
There are good example stories of students with mental health issues at the d-stress website, which also says this about what to do if a friend of yours seems to have mental health problems:
Helping a Friend
When people feel that they are in some kind of trouble, the first person they often turn to is a friend.
We hope that this web-site will be useful to you if you are helping a friend. It can feel very difficult to do this, because you may feel torn between the way you see things, and the way your friend sees them. Perhaps you feel like this..?
Your friend may have problems which s/he doesn't know what to do about, and you may feel that you ought to know the answers, but you don't know them.
Your friend may have told you things which are now making you feel worried and upset too.
Perhaps you have information about something which your friend has told you to keep to yourself, but you are not really sure whether this is right. You may know your friend's family, or teachers, and feel that you should let them know, and that they will be angry with you for keeping things from them.
Your friend may have told you not to help, and it may feel awful because it's as if you are just doing nothing. You may feel anxious and frightened in the situation, and yet feel that you can't ask anyone for help.
You may know and understand why your friend is in trouble, and feel that s/he deserves what happens. This may feel disloyal and as if you are not a true friend, or it may be hard to watch a friend suffer when you feel there is something s/he could do about it.
You may have offered to help your friend, but now your friend is making a lot of demands on you and it's taking up a lot of your time and energy. You may be feeling bad, or tired, or miserable.
If you recognise any of these situations, these suggestions may help:
You have a right to talk to someone about the way you are feeling. You can talk through the situation without giving your friend's name - this is not betraying a confidence, it is helping you to cope with the situation more easily, and this may help your friend too.
You can get information about the problem or the situation which your friend is having to deal with. You may find it easier to do this because you are at a distance, and you may be able to ask the kinds of questions which your friend would find it hard to ask. Once you have more information, it may be easier to talk things through. Listening to someone may not feel as if you are doing very much, but in fact it's a big help. You may be the only person your friend can say things to - imagine how important that would be if you were in that position. If helping your friend has become very difficult, tiring or upsetting for you, you have the right to say this to your friend.
Explain how you are feeling and suggest some other possibilities, e.g.:
- That you have a certain time (and/or place) to talk.
- That you can help with certain things but that there are some things which are too difficult / tiring / uncomfortable.
- That you will get contact details about other people who could help.
Saying these things will feel very hard, but if you explain the reasons, you may be able to show that you still care. Your caring may have to be in different ways: after all, if you become as anxious and worried as your friend, neither of you will be able to see ways round the difficulties.
You may know something about a situation which could be life- threatening. If you are not sure what to do about this, and are frightened to pass the information on for any reason, it will certainly help you to talk to someone else (someone you can trust such as a counsellor, or a tutor) so you can share your concerns and worries. You don't have to give all the details at this stage, and it may help you to make a decision.
2. This is from a De Montfort University leaflet called 'What is depression?' :
Depression involves periods of low mood, which we can all identify with from time to time. For most of us this is not long-lasting or disabling. However, for some people the low mood continues for more than two weeks, and can be either 'mild,' 'moderate' or 'severe'.
If you have this type of depression, you may have feelings like these:
- Constant sadness.
- Hopelessness about yourself, your current situation and the future.
- Everything is grey and boring.
- You are never good enough.
- Getting irritable or angry more than usual.
- Having little or no energy.
- Tense and worried most of the time.
- Upsetting thoughts about illness or death.
This is very common. Depression affects about 1 in 6 adults at some time in their lives. It is not something to be ashamed of. It doesn't mean you are weak or incapable. Most episodes of depression will clear up by themselves, but there are also effective treatments for it.
Some famous people who have had severe depression are:
- Paul Merton
- Stephen Fry
- Paul Gascoigne
- Jim Carrey
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Sinead O'Connor
- Vincent van Gogh
- Lou Reed
If you are depressed, you might find yourself doing some of these things:
- Wanting to stay in bed all day because there's nothing to get up for.
- Crying more often than usual.
- Not looking after yourself.
- Losing interest in other people (including sex).
- Sleeping a lot less (or a lot more) than usual.
- Eating a lot less (or a lot more) than usual.
- Finding it hard to concentrate on anything.
- Forgetting all sorts of things.
- Thinking about self-harm or death.
If one or two of these things apply to you, it may not mean that you are seriously depressed. The key thing about depression is that a lot of the features mentioned in this leaflet apply to you most or all of the time, and stop you getting on with your life.
How you can help yourself:
If you have mild depression, things that might help you include:
- Regular exercise and a good diet.
- Avoiding heavy drinking and other illicit drug use.
- Talking about it to someone (e.g. a friend or Counsellor).
- Planning something positive to look forward to.
- Keeping a diary of things that have gone well.
How might depression affect your life as a student?
If you've had depression before, coming to University might make it worse at first. For other people, the stresses of University life might bring it on.
At University, you might experience:
- Difficulty in concentrating and in completing work on time.
- Feelings of being a failure academically.
- Feeling unattractive and wanting to isolate yourself.
- Not wanting to attend course sessions.
- Believing that everything is 'too much of an effort'.
- Thoughts of giving up the course.
As a result, you might cut yourself off from other people. It might seem that these feelings will go on for ever.
Where does depression come from?
Some people have a tendency to depression in their families. For others, it may be due to an unhappy childhood or a series of upsetting events. Some depressed people have been found to have lower levels of certain brain chemicals, which can be restored by medication. There is often a combination of factors in a depressed person's nature and history.
Treatment for depression often involves:
Talking treatments, which could include Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). These are the recommended first choice, if your depression is mild.Medication - usually anti-depressants. May be prescribed if you have moderate to severe depression. You can discuss any concerns about these with your Doctor, Counsellor or the Mental Health Co-ordinator.
3. The UK Oxford Student Mental Health Network says:
The solution to an individual's problems may include a number of options:
- changing the situation.
- recognising when the situation cannot be changed and developing strategies to lessen its impact.
- gaining insight into how one's environment or personal history might be influencing a response to a current situation.
- dealing with feelings.
- working to gain a different perspective.
- building a greater sense of confidence in one's ability to understand and manage difficult situations
- setting achievable goals.
- identifying appropriate external supports.
- taking prescribed medication.
The particular mix will vary for each individual depending on their circumstances. As with our physical health, we can take steps to build up our mental fitness and seek help when our mental health is challenged.
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