Mental Health. Controversial? Or a health condition on the rise in situations where more and more people seem to be unaware of the signs and symptoms popping up before their very eyes. It is currently estimated that 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives; a rather alarming statistic as 27% of students report that mental health affects their studies.
Typing away at my laptop; I thought about the impact my new article would produce for the various students and academics following me on social media. I started StuMent a few months ago when I realised it wasn’t just mental health affecting the general populous but the scores of people overcome by the stigma associated with mental health.
I created StuMent to raise awareness of mental health and the stigma; it was a means to educate but also awaken students to the reality of mental health and the signs and symptoms that can be so easy to spot early on. Although it is only in its infancy, I have managed to reach audiences I never thought I could and I hope that in months and years to come, StuMent will begin to reach students at a university level to help end this growing stigma.
I suppose the question you’re thinking now is: Why did I decide to start fighting for mental health and to stop the stigma? The truth is that no journey can ever be successful without its falls, and my fall into mental health was one that left me with some bruises but also scars that I thought would never heal.
I started my pharmacy journey in 2014 at the University of Nottingham, leaving home from the comfort of my tight-knit family to a place I would learn quickly about independence and learning from the best of the best. However, I had found myself leaving home to escape numbers of painful memories, people who had told me constantly that I wasn’t able to achieve my dreams and others who could have turned my university journey into much less of the experience many students hope to love before going out into the world of work. It was in my first year at university that I was buried under by the stress of university work and some of these people choosing not to leave me alone; I found my grades slipping from firsts to thirds, spending more time alone rather than with my friends and family and considering actions that could have been the biggest regret I’d ever have.
Throughout this, you probably wonder why others didn’t notice this downward spiral, yet you’ll never consider how easy mental health can be to hide; from others and even yourself. Every time you repeat thoughts over and over in your head, the likelihood is that you’ll say it’s nothing. The reality I found for myself was that it was a part of so much more. What I didn’t realise at the time was that where I thought I had no one to turn to at this time, I had family and friends who were so willing and open to listen to my troubles and help me talk about it. How many people do you think are also stuck in this situation?
As a pharmacy student, I remember wondering to myself, would I be able to continue my degree? Would I be fit to practise or in my naivety, I considered whether I would be pulled in for fitness to practice! How do we go about procedure when dealing with mental health? As pharmacists, we are considered to be healthcare professionals, and experts in the field of specific drug-action and distribution within the body, which puts us on the frontline of patient-medicine service and care. In positions such as community pharmacy, it means we hold a lot of responsibility in maintaining an ability to produce and deliver proper and effective care to all patients.
Although the start of my pharmacy journey was paved with numerous difficulties, I am grateful and happy to be starting year 3 of my MPharm degree; a year that will be intense but hopefully put me on the track I hope to follow into hospital pharmacy.
The StuMent has become my own way of following my passion for helping others and prevent people feeling that they’re alone in the world. My biggest mistake was not talking when I had a family, friends and a supportive university full of people willing to listen. I want to show every student and person too, that regardless of background, occupation or age, mental health can affect anyone and everyone, and that we all have an ability to help. We are allowed to talk about it and we just have to know what options there are out there for us and how we can get to the point of talking; the hardest part about conquering mental health.
My biggest mistake was not talking
I always like to tell people whenever I talk about StuMent, my five golden rules to working with mental health in society and helping to fight the stigma; rules that have played a large part in my own recovery.
1. Be aware of someone suffering on their own
How many times have you seen that classmate scurrying off to the library during breaks, sitting alone in lectures or classes? Have you ever thought about where their friends are or whether they’ve just never been invited to sit with others? It is never harmful to strike up a friendship or tell someone they don’t have to eat lunch alone. It may mean a little to you but possibly a lot to them, as they probably would have spent that time alone reflecting on things they don’t want to think about.
2. Look out for changes in behaviour
My mum always taught me that bottling things up is the worst thing you can do; but often in times of trouble, it’s the most tempting thing to do. Mental health can affect people in different ways but cases of depression and anxiety, for example, can cause introverted behaviour. An individual may stop spending time with friends, residing to their room whenever possible or cancelling plans all the time and making excuses to not meet up. Don’t leave that friend alone.
3. Talk about your worries
The worst possible thing you can do is hide your worries on the inside; it will start as one worry then another will add and another and another before you’re overwhelmed. It could be the smallest thing from homesickness to work stress, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it!
4. Listen don’t judge
It’s so easy to watch someone worrying about nothing or walk into an exam knowing you’ve revised your heart out while someone is behind or struggling with their content. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow them to approach you—help them and listen to why it’s getting them down, you could be helping them with something they missed or something that has the potential to lighten their day.
5. Failure is a part of success
You will fall before you succeed. My mum always taught me that you needed to fail to learn from your mistakes and see that what doesn’t destroy you, makes you stronger. You can be the sufferer or the listener, someone, somewhere needs you.
Mental health is a reality we all need to accept. Don’t become a statistic, be StuMent aware. #StopTheMentalHealthStigma
By Sukhveer Singh, Year 3, University of Nottingham
Presenting StuMent at the Universitas 21 Health Sciences meet in Birmingham
|How we can be aware of Mental Health|
|1) BE AWARE of someone suffering on their own.|
|2) LOOK out for changes in behaviour.|
|3) TALK about your worries.|
|4) LISTEN, don't JUDGE.|
|5) FAILURE is a part of SUCCESS.|
Look at yourself, you CAN succeed.