Alex is a recent graduate from the University of Cumbria. Here, Alex writes about his experience of being a student with both a long-term mental health condition and a physical condition. Whilst it can be a challenging read at times (there is mention of suicide within this blog post, and we have therefore included a few resources that may help if this triggers a significant emotional response in you as the reader), Alex’s message is that learning to cope can help instill hope.
I graduated from the University of Cumbria in the summer of 2018, studying Sports Coaching. For many years before and during my degree, my mental health had its lows, but education amongst a few things was something which kept me going. I was diagnosed with a physical condition in my final year of university which effected my liver and stomach. The combination of being physically and mentally unwell for a sustained period of time was something that I found incredibly draining, to a point where shortly after my degree had finished, I attempted to take my own life.
The immediate period after this was one that left me feeling scared and uncertain. I knew I needed help, and after being rushed to hospital I saw a few psychiatric nurses, which resulted in me being advised to receive therapy.
Following this, I used my previous 23 years as a learning experience. I learnt to follow basic principles, such as having honest conversations about my feelings, having good communication with those I care about and those who care about me, and finding a job I enjoy.
I want to emphasise that I am not 100% now, and I have learnt to except that this is okay, and this is one of my biggest lessons. As a student you have so many things to balance: studies, friendships, seeing families, relationships, socialising and much more. You sometimes need healthy distractions from when you’re feeling low or anxious. A few useful interventions you can do yourself are to have a healthy diet, a good nights sleep and some form of exercise every day. Trust me, these go a long way to ensuring your wellbeing is in a good place, and if any of these are a challenge for you, there is support at the university to help.
It is important to have a healthy range of emotions. Sometimes we feel sad, happy, anxious, angry, frustrated. But experiencing just one of these all the time is not healthy. I know as a university student you can experience so many emotions in just one day, there are a lot of variables in your day-to-day life.
It can be good to feel nervous, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, however when this is particularly high, it can have negative effects. But challenge is something that is so healthy, as it develops your resilience amongst other things.
Whatever you’re going through, it won’t last forever. There was a before this, and there will be an after this. It will work itself out and it will be alright. I believed I would never get out of that mindset I was in, and here I am now in a much better place. Sometimes life challenges us, but when you get through a difficult experience, it helps shape you to be a better person.
Please remember if you’re struggling whilst at university, there are resources available no matter how minor or large an issue may be.
You can contact the wellbeing team via logging into the StudentHub if you are a student of the University of Cumbria. Alternatively, you can try the following:
- The Samaritans, available 24 hours a day on 116 123
- PAPYRUS-UK at https://papyrus-uk.org with a Hopeline on 0800 068 414 or text 07860 039967
- SHOUT at https://www.giveusashout.org/get-help/ or text SHOUT to 85258
- Togetherall, a peer support, monitored online mental health community which is accessible anytime and anywhere via www.togetherall.com
- Student Minds at https://www.studentminds.org.uk/ and their Student Space specifically for support around Covid-19 issues at https://studentspace.org.uk/