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Keeping Mentally Well at Uni – Jodie’s Story

Jodie, Bath Mind’s Press and Press Intern, has shared her experience of the first year at university, as well as useful tips to support student mental health. A huge thank you to Jodie for sharing her story with us. If you’re at university and struggling with your mental health, please reach out to Bath Mind

The ‘typical’ student experience 

It can feel difficult starting university when you are an introvert, or someone who doesn’t drink. As someone who worked full time for three years before moving away and starting university, I am outside of the ‘typical university student’ category. I didn’t move into halls for first year, I moved in with my partner. I barely went out for fresher’s week, due to having tonsillitis, but also because I don’t particularly like clubbing. And guess what – I still made friends! 

Drinking culture at universities

There seems to be some kind of misconception that in order to go to university, you need to be drinking all the time and behaving somewhat irresponsibly – that is not the case.  

In my first year I experienced so many new things, as well as taking up so many opportunities – many of them did not involve drinking. I feel that my experience at university for my first year was the best it possibly could have been. However, I am very aware that this is not the case for some people at university. 

Fighting loneliness as a student

One major concern during university I had was feeling lonely and out of place, due to my age. Here are a few tips on how to feel less lonely at university: 

Join a society.

This can be a great way to be sociable without drinking. Your university should have a great selection of non-drinking societies, such as knitting or mental health societies!

Remind yourself why you are here.

Though gaining experiences and friends is a plus for university, the main reason for starting university is to get a degree!

Be patient.

Although the movies lead us to believe that when you meet a new friend you’re immediately close and an instant connection is made – in reality, many friendships can take time to develop, especially when you’re in a new place and people are getting to grips with a new way of life. These things take time.

How do others experience university?

To conduct some research, I circulated a form around my peers and friends who have experienced university. Here is what they had to say: 

Accessing mental health services

Of the 15 respondents, 6 responses regarding the accessibility of mental health services at universities were positive, 6 negatives, and 3 were in between positive and negative.

Dealing with a drinking culture

13 of the 15 respondents agreed that universities have a problematic drinking culture, with only 1 respondent saying that they didn’t feel peer pressured to drink. 1 respondent felt that there was a drinking culture but that it was easy to find likeminded friends who did not drink.

Managing work/life balance

9 respondents agreed that universities were supportive of their work/life balance. 4 disagreed that their university wasn’t supportive. 1 respondent didn’t respond.

Taking new opportunities

When asked to give advice for new students, 8 respondents gave the advice to say yes to all opportunities and take each opportunity as they come.

Others said:

Don’t try to fit in or change yourself, always prioritise what’s good for you

Find your niche and be yourself

Make sure you have a support system when attending university

Finding support are your university

Don’t forget that universities have many resources and services to support your mental health. Reach out to the specific team or speak to a lecturer or academic advisor that you feel comfortable speaking to. Look into local mental health charities and see what support they can offer you – does your university city have a local Mind charity? 

Getting familiar with the free support services around you can be something you plan before moving into your university city. This way you feel that you are already one step towards having a safe and supportive system to support your mental health and wellbeing at university. 

University can be an extremely positive time for people, and unfortunately for some, it can be an exceedingly difficult time. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone in this. Many students are homesick, feel lonely, and aren’t always sure where to ask for help.

Don’t forget that your life is your own, so take whatever path you decide to. Keep safe and enjoy yourself. 

Posted on: 16th October 2023

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