Over the last few days it has been brought to my attention via the news that the number of Bristol student’s that have commit suicide this academic year has increased to five. It deeply saddens me that people are not getting the help they want and, very much, need in this day and age at university. It’s about time this is changed, and universities should step up and acknowledge that mental health is far too easily brushed under the carpet. Despite the fact many universities have counselling in place for those who may need it, they are more often than not, useless.
I’m not somebody to talk about how I feel and usually tend to bottle up my thoughts and feelings, until I end up reaching breaking point. My boyfriend should be mentioned here, because without his constant love, support and care, I have become much better at this. But I know that some people don’t have people in the lives they can easily vent to. People are far too easy to assume things are okay – friends, family, colleagues, teachers/lecturers – but I know that this isn’t always the case at all.
At the beginning of this year (January 2017), I decided to withdraw from Newcastle University and permanently move back to London. I was incredibly excited to start at Newcastle and in my heart I knew there was no other university that was for me after visiting a number of universities. From the open days and applicant days, up until the move in September last year, I couldn’t wait to begin my life as a student and completely throw myself into university life, and most importantly, learning more about the subject I loved. Upon arrival I was nervous, as would anyone else moving so far away from home, but I was excited for new beginnings and starting afresh. However a few weeks after I arrived I realised that things weren’t quite right.
A few months later into my university course, the pressure to conform and fit into university life was becoming a burden over me, and I began to feel very overwhelmed. I began feeling deeply unhappy and resulted in isolating myself to the confinements of my university bedroom and only went out to my lectures and seminars. I didn’t socialise with people in my flat often and kept my head down in lectures and seminars, hardly speaking at all. Other people had so much more confidence than me, and that was an area I was seriously lacking in.
At a time where I have never felt so low and so vulnerable, I finally ended up reaching out to student services. Crying every day wasn’t just going to fix itself, and however much I spoke to my boyfriend and my family back home and their efforts to make me feel better, I didn’t want to be a burden. I feel like many students in my shoes feel the same way, and that is why some people never speak out, and by this point, it’s too late.
By the time I eventually got given an appointment to speak to someone from the university student services, I left feeling more confused and upset than when I first entered their office. The so-called ‘expert’ made me feel small and as if I was crazy, and how “everyone is in the same boat”; claiming that I was over-reacting? At this point I even began questioning myself and my mental health, and maybe she was right: that I was over-reacting and going crazy? But I of all people should know how I feel. She can’t tell me how I feel?
After a lot of to-and-froing they did end up helping me out and I was able to get some advice from the university from a lady who wasn’t so judgmental and rash. But I know for some people at different universities, student services are too late to react and give help to those who are desperate for it. Others do receive help, but ‘experts’ who are meant to help are so ‘out of touch’ with what university is like or what it means to be an young adult today – they simply just don’t understand. Sadly, this was probably the case for those 5 poor students from Bristol this year alone.
After a lot of thinking and weighing up of pros and cons, I decided university wasn’t for me on the whole. I wasn’t enjoying the course as much as I’d hoped, I hated being so far away from my family (I’m definitely a home girl through and through), and university life just was not for me. I started university a happy teenager with good friends and a great life, and left university this year a totally different person.
Although, upon reflection, I wouldn’t change a thing. This experience has made me a much stronger person and I urge anyone in my situation to go with your gut instinct and not worry about what people may think. Being happy is the single most important thing in life, and if you’re not, you need to change that. Don’t just brush your mental health under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist, or pretend that everything’s okay when it clearly isn’t. It does more harm than good.
Despite the fact I decided to drop out, I still don’t regret it at all. A few months later, I am currently the happiest I have ever been. I have been offered an internship working as a social media/marketing/editorial intern, which I immediately accepted, and my life honestly couldn’t be any better. University isn’t the only option in life, and I will do everything and anything I can to achieve my goal: to work for a magazine.
The moral of this is I urge anyone out there who has been in my situation to not sit and suffer in silence. Don’t stick at something if you’re not happy. Talk to someone if you’re not happy. I have my email/phone/door wide open for anyone who needs a chat or any advice. No one should feel like they’re alone. No one should feel inadequate.