[Robert Wheatley | Lifestyle Editor]
In July, a survey was released to assess how commonplace mental health issues were, and the effect mental health issues had on things like employment, university life, and how often sufferers were affected by mental health symptoms.
Participants were anonymous, and were able to, with permission, ask people they knew to answer on their behalf. Though 81 per cent of the 100 responses spoke of their own mental health, 16 per cent of respondents answered on behalf of someone else. The majority of respondents were students from the University of Hertfordshire.
Of 79 respondents, 42 were affected by their mental health issues daily, while 20 others were affected a few times a week; the rest a few times a month, or every few months. What stands out is just how many have to endure their mental health symptoms every day, with one UH student commenting:
“…I have suffered depression for 10 years and never told anyone (after my parents ignored me and told me I was imagining it, aged around 9) because I don’t want people to think I’m weak. I just keep pretending I’m fine, even when my grades suffer or I can’t get out of bed or I just want to break down and cry.”
When asked if they had suffered issues with employment, 47 of the 78 respondents said that they faced no issues. However, out of the 31 who had suffered issues with employment, 17 were finding it difficult to gain employment, 3 were not finding it possible to gain employment, and 11 were losing employment over their mental health.
One person commented that they were “refused entry into the police because of [their] anxiety”, and that as a result they had felt “lost and didn’t know what to do”.
The stigma of having a mental illness unfortunately still exists around employment, despite one in six of our workforce facing mental health problems each year. Employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against those with mental health issues, which comes under disability, and they have a legal duty to make “reasonable adjustments” when recruiting or looking after their employees. If your mental health is making employment difficult, you have every right to tell your manager – it is their duty to under the Equality Act to not discriminate against you.
Of the 79 that answered, 72 respondents had their student life affected by their mental health; 38 had described their mental health during student life as “disabling” at times, with 6 of these often finding it disabling still. Student life had been found to be “difficult” at times by 34 respondents and 22 respondents are still finding it difficult at times.
Procrastination is something we can all relate to, but for someone with anxiety the pressure can become severe, resulting in rushed assignments and a greater sense of anxiety. One person said: “…this caused a huge problem for my assignments – writing everything last minute because of a crippling anxiety to start until I absolutely knew I must do it.”
Supporting those with mental health issues is incredibly important. Bottling up stress and letting it pile up will worsen anyone’s mental health, which is why services are provided to support those facing issues. The Student Wellbeing services on College Lane actually provide counselling services for students. The services are entirely confidential, and cover multiple difficulties people may face because of their mental health including exam stress, self-harm, anxiety and depression, as well as concerns about sexuality and gender identity amongst others.
When asked if they had used a university wellbeing service for their mental health issues, 34 of the 76 respondents had used a service at a university. Up to 43 respondents had used services outside of university.
One person noted their struggle with mental health during their first year at UH, and the time it took them to seek help at their services:
“… It took a long time until I felt able to seek help. Discovering the support available at the university was one of the best things I could have done… I’m not sure I would be graduating this year without them!”
For some, there may be some stigma attached to receiving support for mental health. One person noted: “I knew I had some problems but didn’t want to talk about them all the time. I was hoping that ignoring that I had a problem would make it go away.”
Getting help is not always easy. Perhaps it makes some feel weak if they need support with their mental health; something they may consider to be small, or something another person has dealt with without help. There is no weakness in needing help, and support is available. It would not exist if nobody needed it!
What the survey ultimately shows is that mental health is indeed an issue that people, but also many of our students, face. 81 respondents were students, but statistics showing one in four people would imply that over 6,000 of our students could be affected by their mental health; significantly more than the 65 shown in the survey.
The more we show how common mental health issues are, the more we can stamp out stigma around mental health, encouraging people to get the support they may need. If you think your mental health is having an impact on your student life, or life in general, UH has services available.
Contact the Student Wellbeing services via email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or alternatively, call them on +44 (0)1707 284453. You can also speak to an advisor face to face by visiting the services on the second floor of the Hutton Hub on College Lane.