Dealing With Depression at University
Updated: Jun 24
Mental health issues at university are at an all time high. In a generation that is more open and comfortable talking about mental health, it's no surprise that the number of students who dropout of university due to this, has trebled in recent years. I also struggled with depression throughout my university years, and still to this day. It can be completely overwhelming and can stop you from performing even the most basic tasks, like eating or showering.
I have been struggling with depression since GCSEs and it wasn't that I was immediately suicidal. I started sleeping more, I no longer made effort with my homework, I became disinterested in school and I started pushing my close friends away. When sixth form came round, I found it increasingly hard to go in, I would sleep all day and night because I was exhausted constantly and I would hardly eat. At the time I definitely didn't realise anything was wrong with me, it was only once I started university and received help that I understood what was happening in my past. In first year I became very close to doing something that I really regret and it was a really hard time for me, but I got through this and so can you.
Here's some tips on how I've been coping with my struggles with depression.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. My first year of university was my hardest because I refused to admit I needed help. Being stubborn is stupid and downright dangerous. I was lucky enough to have friends that kept nagging me until I was forced to go to the doctors and ask for help, which was honestly the best decision I have ever made. You don't have to go alone, get a friend to go with you to your wellbeing centre or to the doctors (they can also stop you from chickening out halfway). If you don't want to go in person to the doctors for whatever reason, a lot of universities have nighttime lines you can call, or you can call your samaritan helpline (116 123 for UK residents).
FIGURE OUT WHAT HELPS
On those really really good days, try and pinpoint what could have effected your outlook on that day. For me, I would drag myself out of bed and sit with my flatmate in the kitchen all day! We didn't even have to speak most of the time, maybe we would have some music on in the background but it made me feel so much better having someone in the room with me, instead of being left alone with my thoughts all day. Sometimes on the days I couldn't sleep, I would go to my friends flat and watch him play video games all night - it helped form a sense normalcy in my life. So if you went for a walk and you realised that made you feel amazing, then do it again! Try and replicate this (but don't force it) and this can help you more than you realise.
I know that there are some horror stories about medication, but don't be afraid to try it! When I was first offered medication I was adamant that there was no way I needed it and that it wouldn't help, I was so wrong. I admit the first one I took (Setraline) was definitely not for me but Mirtazapine is honestly the love of my life. I started taking it at the beginning of second year and all my friends could immediately see the difference in my behaviour. I no longer stayed in my room all day, I would sit in the living room of our house and socialise, actually participate in conversations and go out during the day. Even if meds don't work out for you, I do think they are worth a try, and don't stick for the first ones they throw at you because you're allowed to try different ones until you find the one for you!
SOMEONE WHO GETS IT
It's definitely important to have a good support system around you, but it can be hard speaking to people who have never been through the struggles you have. If you know someone who has been struggling too, don't be afraid to talk to them about it. It helps to have someone who understands the highs and the lows depression brings and it reminds you that you really aren't alone. I had a few friends that I could really talk to about my hardest moments, things that I couldn't tell my family, and it helped me more than I can explain. Don't be worried about bugging them or scaring them away because at the end of the day, they just want what's best for you.
This isn't meant to be some full proof plan on how to get over depression, it's definitely not that easy and I'm still trying to figure everything out myself! I was lucky enough to have friends that really cared about my wellbeing and an extremely supportive family. My university really listened and understood my personal issues by allowing me to file for extenuating circumstances when it came to my work and to receive extra support throughout my whole degree.
University can be a really isolating time in your life, you're away from your home and surrounded by completely new people. But don't give up, persevere and try to remember that you're not alone, no matter how much it may feel like you are.
You've got this!