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Etta - University Mental Health Day
Etta, Ambitious Youth Network

Youth participation
Thursday 09 March 2023

Looking after my mental health at university

Being a student can be overwhelming and exhausting, it's often a time of change, maybe you’re living independently for the first time, maybe you’re in a brand-new city, or maybe the size of the university and what it has to offer seems too much to ever comprehend. It isn’t always easy balancing all the change and new opportunities, and sometimes it may get all too much, but that’s ok and very normal, so don’t worry, there will be lots of help available, and the first step is always the hardest! 

So currently, I am a first-year student, just beginning the second semester and it has honestly been the best experience so far, but that’s not to say there haven’t been days where all I want to do is lie in bed. It can be challenging living two hours away from home, and personally, I wanted to stretch and challenge myself to be independent, so I made the decision to not visit home until Christmas, meaning I’d be away from home for about three months! Between attending classes, meeting new people, and my job, at first it wasn’t too difficult to not go home, that was until the last two weeks before Christmas break, it seemed to drag, and I could just feel my mood lowering. This wasn’t helped by my train being cancelled and having to wait another two days before going back home, though at the time this felt like the longest weekend in existence!  

Due to lots of disruption earlier in my education, I am slightly older than the average ‘fresher’ and this has made the transition to independent living and university lifestyle easier, in fact by the time I moved away, I was so ready to be living alone! This isn’t the case for everyone though, no matter the age, but it’s been so comforting meeting people of all ages, all at different points in their programmes.  

 

Talking to my university friends about my autism  

As far as being autistic, it was important for me to be open about it, particularly with my flatmates, and it was such a bonding moment for us as a group, as I found out that two of them are neurodivergent and another is going down the journey of self-diagnosis. This really has been such a positive experience, although there have been a few issues in terms of clashing personalities and needs, we all have really begun to recognise each other’s boundaries and know when to check in on one another!  

My university has over 300 societies to join, and at the freshers fair, the neurodivergent society held their booth in a quiet, sensory-friendly space, with the ability to speak to someone on a one-to-one basis. This was so necessary due to the business of the events, and so I’d recommend looking out for a similar society at your own university! 

 

Tips for looking after your mental wellbeing at university 

For me, I’m at my best when I’m busy and can be productive – having to achieve one thing every day even if just making a meal for yourself is crucial to staying on top of your mental health. Sometimes I struggle to know when to stop and have found it difficult to say no to covering shifts, even if I know I have other things I need to do. Work is such a safe space for me, and honestly, I thrive when I’m there, so it can be difficult not to add additional shifts and study instead. 

One last tip from me – separate your home space and working space! I made the decision not to do a lot of studying, reading or essay writing in my bedroom, in order to create a sense of division, meaning my bedroom could be a safe space, and so I found some local coffee shops, or my favourite university library and have dedicated them to be where I work! 

Last of all, don’t suffer in silence – reach out and get some support! It will get better.  

 

About the author 
Etta is a 20-year-old history student, in her first year of her degree. She is passionate about advocating for those who perhaps do not have the ability to do so and has been a keen volunteer with numerous charities.   

 

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