How To Deal With Depression at University
Because it has come up to this time of year when people are going off to university or have already started, I thought I would pass on some tips on how to deal with depression at university. As someone going into their final year of university and suffers from severe depression, I know that it’s no easy feat and have learnt a lot through my experience of having a mental illness whilst living away from home and studying.
- Look into the services that your university offers for those with mental health illnesses. They probably offer mentoring, counselling and therapy, as well as mental health assessments. Also register at your university’s doctors surgery to get medication prescriptions and they will also guide you when it comes to getting help as they can recommend any local mental health services outside of university. They can also provide doctors notes to use as deadline extension evidence.
- If you have the choice when looking into accommodation, consider asking for quiet accommodation. Some places offer quiet blocks, floors or flats, which helps to remove any stress. I made the mistake of not clicking the option for a quiet block and ended up being surrounded by people blasting music 24/7 (literally), which made my first year very difficult.
- If you’re in the UK and a UK resident, if you qualify for Disabled Students Allowance through Student Finance. They offer services such as having a note-taker go to sit in your lectures for you if you can’t make it to class.
- Go to your classes!! You’ll regret it when it comes to your exams and you don’t know what you’re doing. Also think about how much you’re spending to be there! I regret missing a lot of my lectures in first and second year.
- Talk to your lecturers. Let them know what’s going on. They can offer you extra support, as well as deadline extensions and letting Attendance know, in case of future absences.
Taking Care of Yourself:
- Keep your living and working space tidy. A tidy space is a tidy mind. I struggle to keep myself motivated so once my room starts to get messy, it gets worse and worse until I can’t walk in my room and it stresses me out, making me feel far worse. Keep on top of it all, including washing your dishes and doing your laundry (I’ve eaten off of baking trays, out of plastic cups and on paper plates and have washed my underwear in the sink… it’s not fun. Keep on top of it! Don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress.)
- Make a solid group of friends. This can be from your flat, your accommodation, your course, sports clubs and societies… anywhere! Everyone is willing to be friends as everyone is in the same boat with not knowing anyone else. It’s good to have people you can trust and rely on and can confide in. Friends will also keep you from moping in your room and will drag you out when you won’t leave your bed for days. Don’t cut yourself off. I know it’s difficult going somewhere different and where you don’t know anyone but cutting yourself off from everyone will make it worse. Stay sociable and keep on moving. Open up to someone you trust.
- Avoid binge drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. Not only will you deal with a horrible hangover but alcohol can drag your mood down drastically. It also stops the effects of anti-depressants for at least 4 days. And don’t dabble in drugs. Just don’t do it.
- Be active. When people say that exercise gives you a rush of endorphins blah blah blah, they’re right! Your university will very likely have a gym and may offer it for free as part of your tuition or accommodation. I also find working out is a way to clear my mind and helps to relieve stress.
- Stay organised. Keep a planner, diary or wall chart to keep yourself on track with tasks and classwork.
- Have self-care days! Look after yourself, settle down with a book and a face mask or a film and your favourite bar of chocolate. Don’t neglect making yourself feel good!
- Eat properly. I can’t stress this enough. I stopped eating last year because I felt too low to do so sometimes but that only made me feel worse as it affected my physical health very badly. Try to eat balanced meals and don’t neglect any meals, especially breakfast!
Just In Case…
- You don’t have to stay at university. If you’re not happy there, then you can always drop out and go home. No one will think any less of you. Always put your wellbeing first. In the UK, if you drop out before December, then you won’t have to pay back your tuition fee loan, although you probably will have to keep paying for your accommodation until you find someone else to fill the room. Check with Student Finance and your university.
- If you don’t want to stay but would prefer to carry on studying, look into transferring to a local university and live at home instead. Living at home takes the pressure away of living away on your own. Or even look online for virtual classes and courses or look into studying part-time.
- You don’t need to go to university to get far in life! That is a complete myth. You can build your career from apprenticeships, internships, volunteering, work experience and entry level jobs. University isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. Don’t think you have nowhere to go if you drop out, the world is still your oyster!
University is a great place to have lots of fun and to create many memories. Enjoy yourself and don’t let your mental illness ruin your time there. You’re much more than that, don’t let it define you. You’re brave for going to university in the first place, be proud of yourself and enjoy it!