Dealing with the vagaries of university life – Palatinate

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By Charlotte Wilkinson

Being a student is tough. The narrative around college life feels like it’s all about nights out, lecture avoidance, and cooked meals. Although for
some this might be true, as many circumstances are more difficult. The student lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to prioritizing mental health. Anxiety after a Wiff Waff Monday is tough enough, but if you’re already feeling depressed, lack of sleep and the depressive effects of too much alcohol can make the issues worse. On top of that, the seemingly endless deadlines and performance pressure can quickly become overwhelming.

Although some days it may seem like the University is making life as difficult as possible, there is a wide range of support available to students, through colleges, specialist faculties and university-wide services. ‘University. Drop-ins and one-on-one appointments are a good place to start. Departments can offer extensions or additional support for people with disabilities if needed. On the face of it, the University has many resources in place for struggling students, but there seems to be a problem ensuring that those who could benefit most from this provision actually have access to them. People struggling with their mental health can experience a whole range of different emotions and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to determine the reason. It often creeps into you slowly as you go through your weekly routine.

It’s hard to open up about your sanity

Feeling depressed or having mental health issues can start to manifest through everyday practices until it becomes overwhelming and it is impossible to break the cycle and get help. Despite being repeatedly told that everyone has bad days and there is no weakness in showing their emotions, it’s hard to open up about their mental health. People in difficulty tend to isolate themselves and try to cope on their own; often tell themselves not to get help, without really realizing that it only makes things more difficult in the long run. When you feel like everyone is having fun, the overwhelming fear of judgment and the idea that no one else will quite understand what you’re going through can become incredibly isolating. As the summative season reaches its climax, the students’ sanity is put to the test. There is often a competitive environment around work that can quickly become toxic. Who can stay the longest in the library? Who stressed out the most? Who has the worst?

The culture of working yourself in the ground means that taking time and prioritizing your mental health is often seen as slacking off and lazy. This is neither healthy nor productive and although no student consciously wants to perpetuate any part of this culture, it becomes almost impossible not to internalize the negative perceptions around academic work.

Endless deadlines and the pressure to perform can quickly become too much

The transition to college is difficult for many. After being under the watchful eye of teachers for most of our teenage years, college can seem like a faceless institution. Managing a heavy workload on your own can be a challenge for even the most motivated students. Universities need to promote healthier daily practices for all students to integrate into their daily lives, not just those with mental health issues. This includes maintaining a healthy work-life balance, participating in interests outside of academia, and simply enjoying being a student. Disability support and individual sessions can be helpful for those who have successfully identified that they need mental health support]. Yet it misses a cohort of students who still struggle on a daily basis but don’t feel their problems.
have become acute enough to access specific mental health resources.

The University should be aware of the impacts this time of year can have on students. Student mental health has become increasingly topical during the pandemic. However, as we return to “normal” life, this priority should not change. Student mental health is important whether there is a pandemic, its summative season, or just the day after a big night out.

Illustration: Anna Kuptsova

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