I’m going to open this piece with a relatively personal piece of information. This year – I lost two members of my immediate family in the space of 7 months. As you can imagine, this has been an extremely difficult and jarring thing to come to terms with given that the whole infrastructure of my personal life has become significantly different to what I have been used to for the last 21 years of my life.
I’ve been at the University of Strathclyde for the past three years, and while studying and working towards a joint honours degree in English and Journalism & Creative Writing, life has had it’s ups and downs. However, the events that have transpired in my personal life over the last year or so have left me feeling deflated, hopeless, and unsure if I would be able to make any meaningful progress towards finishing my degree.
One thing I can wholeheartedly say has helped me stay afloat throughout all of this chaos, is the help I was able access via the Student Counselling Services that are available to me as I am a current student. There is no shame, ever, in asking for help when you need it. Poor mental health is just as serious as poor physical health — both of which could heavily impact you reaching your full potential; academically speaking.
While times are sometimes strained for these types of services given the high demand for it, University of Strathclyde’s Student Association (USSA) was able to lobby a campaign, #WeNeedCounselling, to tackle previously longer waiting times and the gross understaffing of the services. They were successfully able improve the ratio of student to counsellors, and while it’s not to the recommended standard – it is progress.
Something that is largely under utilised but still incredibly useful that is on offer is the Nightline service via the University. It is run entirely by volunteers, throughout the academic year and is open from 7pm until 7am. I know from my own experience that I’ve had bouts of anxiety in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, so it is comforting to know that I have options and that there is a listening ear available if and when I need it, thanks to this service.
Another good thing about Nightline is that, as it is volunteer ran and totally confidential. So, there is an opportunity for you, if you wish, to volunteer yourself. Given that your time at University you will have deadlines and other academic responsibilities, it may be refreshing to take some time away from that in order to give back to your fellow students who would appreciate a listening ear.
I’m sure that the volunteering opportunity would afford you the chance to meet new people and possibly push yourself out of your comfort zone to try something new, and hell, it would even look great on your CV when you start applying for graduate jobs. If this is something you’d be interested in, you can contact Holly Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Looking after yourself is crucial at university, and you know what? Life happens. Things can happen that make you feel like you want to pack your whole degree in and walk away from it all.
I’m here to tell you as someone who’s been through it that it is possible to stick in at it – if you want to – and come out of the other side, as long as you are able to reach out for the support that’s available when you need it.
Of course, do what is best for you, and if you need a break, there is no shame in that either. Work at your own pace and your brain will thank you for it later. Always remember that you can do this, you are stronger than you think, and you are never, never alone.
I’ll sign off with a simple, but very important sentiment as popularised on the Final Thought portion of Jerry Springer.
Take care of yourself, and each other.