Long-term solutions to improve your mental health

The Verse’s Ida Hansen gives us some tips on improving mental health.

There is a lot going on. Joggling university, work, social life, placements, friendships, insecurities, worries about the future and homesickness can often lead to mental health problems, including stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety and it can be difficult to see a way past your struggles when they first get a chance to build up.

Mental health issues are quite common amongst UK university students with a recent mental health poll showing that more than one in five university students has a mental health diagnosis. The same report shows that 87% of the students surveyed struggle with feelings of anxiety and 33% reported battling with loneliness. So if you are struggling at the moment, please know that you are not alone and luckily there are so many ways to fight these issues and feel better – sometimes for good. Sometimes, all you need is someone to tell you where to start.

1. Talk to your SSGT

University of Brighton has the most amazing Student Support and Guidance Tutors and they are there to help you with whatever struggles you are facing – even mental health issues. Every school of study has an assigned SSGT and most of them have drop-in times almost every day. The SSGTs are a great first step in figuring out what changes needs to be made to improve your general wellbeing and they are extremely supportive and helpful. Your SSGT can also refer you to free counselling, if the two of you agree that this would be beneficial for you.

2. Get counselling

The University of Brighton has a free counselling/therapy scheme available for students, which is an incredible opportunity to face whatever is bothering your daily life and find ways to deal with it so that you can live life to the fullest. Brighton and Hove also facilitate a Wellbeing Service which provides counselling sessions free of charge as well as the Pavilions Drug and Alcohol Service if you are struggling with substance abuse. I know that therapy is scary and sometimes the hardest part is admitting that you need it in the first place, however, it shouldn’t be. There is no shame in accepting help, because this help could improve your life in ways that could stick forever.

3. Go to the doctor

Prescribed medication is a common tool to improve mental health conditions, but it is important to remember that most medications you will have to come off eventually and in a lot of cases the issues will still be there when you do. However, medication is sometimes the only solution to severe mental health problems and combined with therapy it could really improve your situation. Talk to your doctor about the different opportunities and find out what will work best for you.

4. Take up meditation

Another way to soothe especially a stressed or anxious mind is through mindfulness. It requires discipline, but if you stick with it and really invest yourself in it, it can be an extremely rewarding experience. The app Calm has some great guided meditations for all levels of experience.

5. Stay away from serotonin-killers for a while

For most students, drinking is a huge part of university life and in some circles drugs also play a big role. However, both alcohol and drugs have what is referred to as a “come-down”, something that can seriously harm your mental health condition. Alcohol and some drugs release a high intensity of serotonin, dopamine and other “happy-hormones” that affect your mood, which is why you are happier when under the influence. However, after the substance has left your body, the body needs time to get used to producing natural “happy-hormones” once again, resulting in a drop in the serotonin-levels. This is the reason for so-called hangover blues and if you are already struggling with your mental health, staying away from alcohol and drugs for a while could improve your mood until you have your mental health back in a good place.

Remember – the first step is always the hardest and there is no shame in needing a little help to take it.

Ida Hansen

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