On this University Mental Health Day, we reflect on the issues faced by young people at such a crucial stage of life. This provokes some interesting thoughts. 75% of mental health difficulties start in a person’s mid-twenties, thus making the university campus an obvious place to start addressing the problem. The theme of this year’s day focuses on community and the difference it can make to one’s mental health.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
During this period of new found independence it can be easy to isolate oneself and to feel lonely. For most embarking on this new stage of life, it is the first experience of living away from home. When students are suddenly being expected to manage money, look after themselves, and take on a degree there is little surprise that stress levels increase.
Feelings of anticipation and excitement are often interwoven with a certain level of anxiety, which sheds light on the surge in demand for counselling and mental health support seen by university student services in recent years. A still relatively new factor that students now must contend with is social media. Not only is there a pressure on your university days being “the best years of your life”, but there is the added pressure of keeping up appearances online –irrelevant of whether or not that is a true reflection!
It is however definitely worth looking at the higher demand for mental health support with optimism. Perhaps the stigma previously attached to mental health is disappearing. Perhaps people are ready to talk about mental health, recognise mental ill health, and ask for and accept help? Younger generations finding it easier to talk about mental health can only be a good thing.
University Mental Health Day is aimed at promoting not just the mental health of the students attending these institutions, but those who work there too. Improving the understanding among teachers and students about the role that a community can play in bettering mental health is vital to achieving a sense of belonging.
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5