Sat in the darkness overlooking a lake, slightly drunk and telling someone their life is worth living. Not something I ever imagined myself doing at the early hour of 4am.
More drunk than I, their feelings jet out of their mouth as they’ve never been said before. The reflection of them from the lake; their worth and potential staring right back at them. They’re so blind to it. Blinded by the high societal expectations and self-deprecating vision they have of themselves.
I’m writing this piece because uni has given me a new outlook on mental health, more so than I could have ever imagined. Realising the emotional state of other people is something you only truly understand when you live in such close quarters to them, something I was almost oblivious to before uni. As I’ve learnt, you never really know how somebody else feels until you see it first hand.
Moving to university is one of the biggest decisions a young person can make. Leaving home and having to fend for yourself, possibly leaving all of your friends at home (which in my case is 4 hours away by train) and having to decide what you want to do with your life. It’s daunting for anyone, no matter how confident.
For me, I felt settled in immediately. I was lucky.
In a flat with likeminded people and instantly clicking with everyone I met in the first two weeks, I knew I wouldn’t feel *too* homesick for the next few years away from what I knew. Unfortunately, as happy as I was, moving away gave me the realisation that not everyone is as lucky as me.
Early on, I met someone who was incredibly anxious. I’ve had friends in the past who’ve had bad anxiety and panic attacks and although I myself don’t have social anxiety, overthinking and shyness is something I know too well. Despite this, I have never seen someone quite as anxious as them. Panic attacks and emotions overwhelmed them the moment their family left and I think they felt alone being surrounded by such confidence from everyone else who seemed like they were settling in.
Not only for them, homesickness and fear spread through the uni like plague. I remember having countless tearful conversations with people I barely knew who poured out their hearts to me. We were less than a month in.
For some, this flurry of fear and panic blew over and eventually they were caught up in the whirlwind that is freshers. For others, the independence uni had to offer was all too much and within a week or two, they decided it wasn’t for them.
Freshers gave me an insight in to the minds of others but it’s safe to say my true understanding of peoples mental health has come more recently.
As cards get declined as students use up their entire overdrafts, people I know have realised the illusion of getting drunk every night cannot be funded with money that is no longer there. By the time the year ends, the fantasy is over and I’ve noticed people trapped in their rooms questioning whether university is for them. Isolation clouds over the skies of motivation and potential. The depression bubbling up inside each student escapes.
I’ve watched people as they start to question their whole future. Their entire past. Their life as a whole.
The other I day I read that mental health problems are at an all time high over universities all across the UK. Being at university, that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I can’t explain how heartbreaking it is to see amazing people crumble at every ounce of pressure being thrown at them, knowing all anyone can do is listen when that might not be enough to change their minds.
I guess my main point is that being at uni has surprised me. I’ve been shocked by the amount of people that act so strong but deep down are suffering. I’ve learnt that being there to offer a chat and a hug during peoples low points is hard but it makes a difference.
Reflecting on my first year at university, I have learnt so much. Hands down, understanding the world of mental health that little bit more is the most horrible but valuable lesson I ever thought I would gain.