Hi there! Are you OK?
Everyone has mental health, and just like your physical health it can be affected by lots of things.
We know that student life in particular includes lots of things that can impact your mental health.
So... are you OK? It's OK not to be OK.
The Student PULSE survey found that 44% of students suffer from loneliness at least weekly.
We know that social distancing and self-isolation will have an enormous impact on students too.
So we asked... "What helps when you're feeling isolated?"
Please support others by sharing your tips, and take away ideas for yourself.
Have you heard about Together All?
It's an anonymous community where members can support each other. Trained professionals are on hand to help keep the community safe, 24 hours a day.
Every Warwick student has free access to the Together All community.
There are so many good resources out there about mental health!
What are your faves? Add them to our Pinterest list!
Talking about mental health with others can be difficult, even if it's not your own mental health.
You might also struggle to recognise the signs of poor mental health, in yourself and others.
Below are our hints and tips to give you a place to start...
Talking to Friends About Their Mental Health
It can be difficult to know how to approach conversations about mental health. Follow our tips to Ask, Listen, and Plan below.
Asking the question
- Identify signs that your friend may be struggling – try to recognise what makes your friend uncomfortable, and how your friend acts when they are unhappy. This may be that they go quiet or have difficulty breathing.
- Ask open questions – ‘how do you feel?’, ‘when did this start?’, ‘are you ok?’
- Prepare yourself – choose your moment and be prepared for the answer ‘no, I’m not’.
Being a good listener
- Give attention and respect - give your friend the time and space to talk openly and don’t pressure them for a specific answer.
- Be non-judgemental – people want to feel comfortable when confiding, so the worst thing you can do is be antagonistic or condescending.
- Don’t feel pressured to say the right thing – just listen and be honest.
Producing a support plan together
- Get extra support – signpost your friend to a safe place, whether that be the SU Advice Centre, Wellbeing Support Services, local organisations or helplines.
- Make time – make sure your friend knows that you’re there for them. Try drawing up a plan together of how to approach their troubles, but be aware that your role is not to “fix” wellbeing issues and you won’t have all of the answers.
- Take care of your own wellbeing – do not blame yourself, make sure you take time for yourself such as sleeping and engaging with a source of community and support such as a sports club or society, and get help should you need it.
- Put boundaries in place to safeguard yourself - for example, let your friend know that your phone may be switched off at night but you can make time for them in the day.
Things to avoid:
- Downplaying someone’s problems as trivial or unimportant
- Commanding someone to ‘calm down’ or ‘chill out’
- Practicing ‘tough love’ rather than empathy
- Insisting that ‘everything will be ok’
- Making the conversation about you
- Suggesting alcohol consumption
The SU's Stop Suicide campaign provides information on common signs someone may exhibit if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, as well as conversation pointers and helpful phrases for having a conversation with them about thoughts of suicide.
Recognising Signs of Poor Mental Health
One of the most difficult parts of poor mental health is recognising and acknowledging that there is a problem. Once this has been achieved you can pursue a strategy for coping with it, seeking help, and recuperating.
Because you can’t necessarily see poor mental health manifest in people, we can end up making false assumptions about people’s wellbeing - and even our own. If someone says ‘you look fine’ or ‘you don’t look sick’ then we can feel that our feelings are invalidated and that there must be an alternative explanation for poor mental health. This is the wrong approach to take - as is telling ourselves ‘I’ve got everything I need and want, what could I possibly be sad about?’. This implies that poor mental health is a choice; it is not, it is an illness. We ought to confront what is really happening beneath the surface, and accept that poor mental health is often not immediately visible.
Asking yourself ‘Am I OK?’ and thoroughly assessing how you feel is the first step towards feeling better. There are a plethora of mental illnesses, and each one will vary in how it affects each person. While some symptoms may be shared with other sufferers, others won’t, just as not every treatment works for every person. It is helpful to understand some of the common indications though.
- Feeling worried or uneasy
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling tearful
- Chest pains
- Needing the toilet more frequently
More symptoms of anxiety can be found on the NHS' website.
- Continuous sadness
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of motivation and interest
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Lack of energy
- Taking part in fewer social activities or not doing as well at work
It’s important to note that you may have one of these symptoms, a few of them, or a combination of varied symptoms both listed and unlisted. You may also have overlapping mental health problems such as suffering from both anxiety and depression at the same time, and thus experiencing symptoms of both. More information on clinical depression can be found on the NHS' website.
- Panic attacks
- Hot flushes
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Thoughts of fear and terror
It is said that most panic attacks last between five and 20 minutes, but can exceed this. They sometimes feel so intense that they feel like a heart attack; however, they don’t cause physical harm, according to the NHS.
The SU's Stop Suicide campaign provides information on common signs someone may exhibit if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, and how to provide support.
If you are suffering, don’t suffer in silence.
It can help to consider any potential barriers preventing you from accessing help:
- Are you struggling to overcome the stigma around mental health, or concerned what others will think?
- Are you finding it difficult to accept that there is a problem?
- Are you struggling to know where to go or what to do?
- Are you feeling unsure whether you actually do have a mental health problem because other people seem to have it worse?
- Are you struggling to find time out for yourself, perhaps feeling like you have too much work to do?
Once you've identified any barriers, try to break them down into small and manageable problems that can be solved. So, if you’re unsure whether a particular service is right for you, why not explore their website/webpage first? Once you’re comfortable with the website, you could drop them an email or phone up the team to talk through your options. You might want to confide in a friend that you’re seeking support. You may need time to work up to the appointment and/or encouragement and support in attending it, so set yourself a realistic timeline.
Acknowledging the issue and seeking support is a hugely important step. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ‘get better’. Set yourself small goals, such as getting up out of bed, or making some lunch, and take time to celebrate every victory. With support you'll get expert assistance in coping with your symptoms and addressing any underlying cause.
Sources of support on campus