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What’s with the taboo around mental health?

06/02/2018

Thursday February 1st was Time to Talk Day, an event which was initiated by the mental health campaign in the UK to confront the stigma surrounding mental welfare.

According to a Union of Students survey, one in five students during their time in university recount facing some variant of mental health issues. Very roughly speaking, this is one or two per shared house. And if this statistic surprises you, it’s probably because the majority of who undergo this feel uncomfortable with openly sharing their experiences.

With all its spirit of progressivism, university is possibly one of the hardest places to admit to emotional difficulties. “So how are you enjoying the best years of your life?” is a casual conversation starter, only to be met with unease when not answered “Oh it’s going really well.” Amidst the unfamiliar freedom and caffeine addiction, there’s an air of failure if you’re not having a great time.

I am indeed enjoying my time here. I love the city, this course, the campus, my friends - though I can also comprehend why mental health problems drench higher education like van de tap beer.

You’re always tired, you’re stressed by the amount of work, you’re living on your own, you’ve made the disorientating shift from six hours of school a day to six hours of lectures a week and (if you’re like me) you’re running on a low-vitamin diet of starch and sugar. Seeing as how these three years set stones for future careers, it’s not surprising that anxiety, depression, addiction and other related issues are so prevalent.

Telling stories

This post isn’t written to bring grey miserable clouds on your sunshine struck day - rather, I wish to showcase that strings of words of our own stories are the best weapons we have against the stigma surrounding mental illness. And in telling these stories, we can progress to a society where these issues are acceptable to address, shame-free. In the past two and a half years, where life has been anything but ‘according to plan’, I don’t know where I would be without a listening ear.

I know there are so many conversations waiting to happen. So just answer truthfully when a friend asks how you’re doing. Because attaching yourself to a narrative of struggle can be upsetting and intimidating, but it also offers the reassurance that every experience is worth talking about. Because the more we share, the easier it’ll be to hear about other histories - and that’s definitely worth a few minutes of anyone’s time.

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