Moving away from loved ones and your home to a new place for university can be an exciting but challenging time for students. There are strikingly high statistics for university students and poor mental health. Having been a university student myself, it is important to consider that many other students are experiencing the same feelings, or as many say, “are in the same boat.” Therefore, it is important to practice empathy and consideration for others, whether they are your course mates or flatmates. Creating this community is beneficial for a happy social life and keeping a good mood.
Following the research that I have done into the mental health of university students, prominent factors that contribute to mental health include physical activity, nutrition, and body image (Gorczynski et al, 2017; Jacka, Mykletun, 2012). Although university life can become very busy and overwhelming, it is important to always try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, whether this is walking to the shops, to lectures, or a workout in your room/university gym, even an intense dance routine in the club will get the job done. Also, eating a healthy and balanced diet is very important to improve energy levels and enjoy the foods that you love for a positive relationship with food and improve your mental health. Drinking culture at university has a significant impact on your mood and health; the overconsumption of alcohol can be detrimental, not only to your mental health, but also your body. Always drink responsibly!
Body image is an important factor that flies under the radar of how much of an impact it has on mental health conditions. It is essential to never compare yourself to others, as you are unique and perfect the way that you are. With the popular use of social media, it may be quite difficult to not compare yourself to others, with beauty standards constantly advertised on Instagram and the “perfect” body trending on twitter. These trends can be particularly harmful when you are from a community which is not represented enough in the Western media, including ethnic minorities, disabled individuals, and the LGBTQ+ community. A social media detox can be beneficial to take a break from curated posts and harmful depictions of beauty.
Changing your mentality on how you perceive your body can have great benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem, which is indispensable for figuring out who you are during your time at university. We welcome many university placement students to the Maudsley Learning team and we encourage a healthy work life balance as well as creating a culture of compassion and empathy every day. We are constantly integrating the feedback we get from our university students and graduates to create a positive environment, not only for their careers but also their wellbeing. It is important to note that the habits you form at university become integral to your postgraduate and working life – these habits can help to build systems to support your mental health. It may seem too early to think about this (depending on your current stage at university), but great habits take time to form! Take the time out every day to de-stress and practice self-care, my favourite books for advice on this are ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’ by Vex King and ‘my body, my home – a radical guide to resilience and self-love’ by Victoria Emanuela and Caitlin Metz. These books highlight different ways of maintaining self-care to take care of your daily wellbeing.
If you ever find yourself experiencing mental health difficulties, you’re never alone; it may be difficult but reaching out to friends and family is a good way of communicating. If this is not comfortable for you, there are many services available; your university may have a confidential counselling service and there is always the opportunity to talk to your local GP.
Take care of yourself and others, and good luck with your university adventures!
Mental health services available:
Gorczynski, P., Sims-Schouten, W., Hill, D., & Wilson, J. C. (2017). Examining mental health literacy, help seeking behaviours, and mental health outcomes in UK university students. The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice.
Jacka, F.N., Mykletun, A. & Berk, M. (2012). Moving towards a population health approach to the primary prevention of common mental disorders. BMC Med 10, 149