Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

With the endless amounts of research papers and midterms, often the last thing on a University student’s mind is mental health. There is always so much to do that thinking about anything else just seems impossible. However, the rates of mental health related issues are highest amongst high school and University aged students. Often, mental health issues go untreated because we are too busy to properly identify warning signs and take the time to seek treatment. Many youths don’t even know where or how to begin. Read on to discover 6 things all University students need to know about mental health to ensure their personal and academic success.

1. Mental health issues can happen to anyone.

Mental heath illnesses/ disorders have been given a very negative connotation in society, even though they will affect most people in their lifetime. A mental health disorder is a significant dysfunction in a person’s emotional control, thinking, and behaviour. They generally affect a person’s ability to relate to those around them and keep up with the demands of life.

Mental health-disorders are not a sign of weakness or character flaw. They affect people regardless of gender, age, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, education, or income level. Common illnesses can include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, grieving, suicidal thoughts, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and self-harm. Sometimes you may experience more than one disorder at the same time.

2. The multiple stressors of University can greatly affect your mental health.

University is an incredibly stressful time. There are multiple stressors that can greatly affect your mental health; being away from home, lack of a support system, academic pressure, financial strains, a new social environment, etc. University is typically less structured than in high school. While there are many new experiences awaiting you, you will also be more heavily exposed to alcohol and recreational drugs. Getting used to and coping with such a chaotic environment can take a huge toll on your mental health. What often goes unrecognized, as well, is the impact lack of sleep and poor nutrition can have on you. University often comes with the freedom to go to bed whenever and eat whatever you want. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle in University to properly take care of your mental health.

3. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals aged 15-24.

There is no ‘one thing’ that causes suicide. Multiple factors can lead an individual to make a decision to end their life. Generally people who are suicidal have and currently are dealing with other mental health issues. Suicidal thoughts can also occur after a traumatic event. People who are suicidal often feel that they have no other choice but to end their life. While they may have hopes and dreams for the future, they most likely feel hopeless with their situation and that suicide is the only answer. Often people choose suicide because they are experiencing an overwhelming amount of emotional pain or feel they have no control over their circumstances.

Warning signs of a suicidal individual may include; depressive moods, sadness, uncharacteristic irritability, a recent traumatic event, a recent loss, withdrawal, alienation, sense of failure, increased alcohol consumption or drug usage, and comments about not being around or not wanting to live. Many people fear that asking someone if they are suicidal will put that idea in their head if it was not already there before. However, with the prevalence of suicide in our culture it is not a new idea. If you suspect someone is suicidal it is best to directly ask in order to get them the help they may need.

4. People self-harm for a variety of reasons.

Self-harm refers to any deliberate acts that cause harm to one’s body. Cutting has become the most common form of self-harm amongst youth. There are a lot of negative assumptions surrounding self-harm, the most prevalent being that people who self-harm do so only for attention. It’s important to realize that people self-harm for a variety of reasons, often having nothing to do with seeking attention from other people. These reasons can be separated into two broad categories.

First, someone may self-harm as a way to relieve tension. It’s a physical release of pain and a way for the individual to be in control of their own pain. Secondly, a person may self-harm to try and feel something. With mental illnesses such as depression, an individual may feel numb on the inside and self-harm is a way to feel emotion. People who self-harm are not always trying to commit suicide. While their mental health issues may progress into suicidal thoughts, self-harm is a different issue altogether. You cannot assume that someone who self-harms wants to end their life. It’s crucial to avoid these sorts of assumptions when dealing with someone who self-harms or recognizing that you may have a problem with it.

5. Using coping techniques is the best way to help your mental health.

Coping with mental health can be challenging. It’s important to seek professional help if you need it. There are some techniques you can do in your personal time to help manage your mental health and ensure you’re the best version of you.

  • Have a good support system. Stay connected with your family and friends, but let go of any toxic relationships that may be impacting you negatively. It’s important to participate in social activities and to seek help from others when you need it.
  • Make time for yourself. Ensuring that you have time to do things you love- playing music, reading, painting, watching Netflix- is essential. These activities can help relieve tension or stress and help to reenergize you to face the world.
  • Join a support group. Surrounding yourself with individuals who may be facing similar challenges is a great way to cope. It allows you to see that you are not alone in this struggle and can provide you with insight into how others are dealing with their mental health.
  • Keep a journal. Physically writing out your feelings is an excellent way to express all of your emotions. You’ll also be able to reflect on progress you have made the longer you keep it up.

Knowing what coping strategies work best for you can help make sure you are properly taking care of your mental health.

6. You are key to treating your mental health.

Understanding your own mental health is one of the most important parts of caring for your mind. You are the first person who would know if you need to seek help for your mental health. You need to make sure you are aware of your mental heath in order to identify when you may need professional help. Educate yourself about and look out for general warning signs- depressive moods, aggressive behaviour, lack of interest in normal things, loss of appetite etc. Using techniques like journaling your moods or talking things out with a trusted friend can help you identify recurring symptoms. Become familiar with coping methods and different services in your area, such as on-campus peer counselling programs or hotlines. If you do seek professional help, being aware of your own mental health will help them provide better treatment to you.

This article is in no way a comprehensive list of everything you should know about mental health. It’s important that you take the time to educate yourself so you can keep track of your own mental health. Your University will most likely have mental health services and educational tools on campus if you would like further information or assistance. Taking advantage of your school’s resources is the best way to help your mental health during the semester. University is an incredibly stressful time full of pressure and changes, so it’s important that you make sure you are taking care of your mental health. You need to always put you first.



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the author

Alexandra is a third year student at McGill University studying Joint Honors Political Science and Philosophy with a minor in Sexual Diversity Studies. She is an aspiring writer with publications appearing on The Huffington Post, Her Campus McGill, Elite Daily, The Main, College Fashionista, Unwritten, and, of course, The Prospect. She is a self admitted coffee addict and Netflix Junkie with an unhealthy obsession for plaid shirts. Alexandra is passionate about maintaining perfect hair, solving the problems of consequentialism, and perfecting her sarcasm. In her spare time she enjoys binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, shopping as a sport, and composing blatantly angsty music. When she’s not studying at her infamous corner of the library, you can find Alexandra at whatever concert is happening that night or working on her Pinterest boards. Follow her on Twitter @AlmostAlexandra or instagram @alexandrasakellariou.

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