Mental health is a topic that is finally starting to be treated as an equal to physical health, and this is especially found amongst university students. However, could being far away with a different support system of friends, housemates and the university themselves mean that parents are being left in the dark? And if so, is that really the worst thing?
Although the discussion on mental health is improving, it’s still not perfect as there are many people who get to university and struggle more than they ever have done before. Arguably this can be credited to the shock of leaving your parents, living alone and making new friends, but that’s the norm for all students across the country. The struggles I’ve witnessed have been more to do with anxiety preventing you from leaving the house and attending university, unearthed eating disorders, and depression when faced with more time alone to overthink. This is not to say everyone experiences this, but it also goes to say that these are only a small proportion of what a young adult may face in life.
Something I’ve experienced from living with people with mental health issues around me everyday is that it doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems, and it definitely isn’t consistent. Whether you struggle with mental illness, or are trying to help others, the best thing to do is talk. The most unexpected thing I’ve been told from someone struggling is that sometimes joking helps. This does not mean joking at the expense of others, but being honest and turning something that’s stigmatised into something normal is a good way for everyone to begin to understand.
Aside from understanding your friends/family members circumstances, contacting professional help is completely necessary. Whether the issue feels small, or it happened years ago, or you don’t even know what the problem is; help can be found. And it has been found. From my experience the best place to start is talking to the university. You cannot go through your degree expecting your lecturers to understand why you cannot attend or why you handed your work in late without telling them the problem. And when it comes to missing a lecture or seminar the excuse is just the same as having the flu or breaking a bone. Although this is a scary thought to open up to a potential stranger, sometimes that is the thing you really need. Someone close to me went through this and received the most supportive and eye-opening email from a lecturer she had previously disliked. You don’t know the help you can get until you ask for it.
Obviously, it is a heart-breaking idea that your child may be struggling without your knowing it.
However, when they are transitioning from child to adult and living far away, it may be that they need help from those around just as much as their parent’s. Something that may happen is your son/daughter tries to deal with their struggles alone before telling others, or even those around them recognise they need help before they do. Even if this is the case, at some point everyone turns to their parent’s.
The Dos and Don’ts of mental health…
Disclaimer: This is not a list of demands or a list that applies to the majority of readers. However it is a list of first hand experiences that may be exactly what some people need to read.
Do check up on your child even if things seem to be going great on the surface.
Don’t send your son/daughter articles surrounding the side effects of anti-depressants after they’ve been prescribed (I promise they will know what they are first hand).
Don’t say ‘but everything’s great in your life, how can you be sad?’ when faced with someone opening up to you.
Do be honest about not understanding their problems, this could be a new experience for everyone involved and that’s okay.
Don’t become a smothering parent because otherwise us students never learn how to do anything on our own.
Do encourage your child to speak to those closest to them if you are their only support system, the university and those around could give them the extra help they need.
And, most importantly, please don’t assume that every student is hiding issues from their parents, mental health issues are extremely common, but different for everyone.
Blog by Kate at University in Brighton
Some places to look for help:
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)