CW: discussion of mental health, anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders, self-harming, loneliness.
Mental health is a huge huge issue for students at Cambridge. This has been repeatedly talked about, measured and debated. Could they be doing more? Should they? Why do 46% of students feel depressed? – These are conversations that seem to take place again and again with little result. Yes, there is a counselling service, college nurses, welfare teams, doctors, tutors, chaplains, women and men’s welfare officers. There’s a LOT in place. And yet, people are reluctant and unlikely to talk to, or use these facilities.
It tends to be students who deal with the brunt of mental health issues at Cambridge as friends and co-workers and neighbours. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, OCD and eating disorders all seem so prevalent here that it almost makes going to see someone “official” feel liike an overreaction. You may feel down or stressed, but so does everyone else. Instead then, students rely on the friend upstairs or next doors, and they bear the brunt. Of course, the only problem is that that friend has about a 1 in 2 chance of having mental health problems themselves, and even if they don’t, talking to friends is only helpful to a certain extent, beyond which they are just not equipped to deal with some of the problems people have.
Just as sexual consent workshops have become a compulsory part of fresher’s week in many colleges this year, perhaps mental-health awareness workshops could take place too. Not only focussing on the who to talk to/where to go/what to do if you feel depressed. But instead, more focus also on how to deal with friends facing depression or anxiety. We need to equip students to survive in the environment of Cambridge University where more of their peers will be suffering from mental health problems than anywhere they’ve likely come from or been before. We need to prepare freshers for the hardship to come and we need to make it easier for people to support one another if the support systems in place are not being used to their full.
I know I would have had a much, much easier time at Cambridge so far if I had both – been better equipped to deal with my own feelings: told how to manage stress, how to work productively, how to relax, what to do when I felt lonely etc etc; and also been better equipped to help those around me without becoming too caught up in their issues myself.
I was never taught what to do when you walk in on a friend crying on their bedroom floor; what to say when someone tells you how much they’re hurting; how to act when people don’t just get better as they do in films…
These are the things that the current welfare structures cannot deal with, but they are therefore, wrongly, the things that students themselves are having to deal with. Surely this will only perpetuate the mental health problems at this University if something is not done soon.