Studying at tertiary level is a mentally and emotionally challenging time for many young people. So many feel self-doubt about their chosen field of study, whether they’ll find a job, whether they’re good enough, whether they should continue or intensely afraid of failing. These are all extremely natural and normal feelings, but when they’re happening to you it can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult to deal with. It makes you feel like you’re the only person struggling while everyone else seems to be getting along fine – but rest assured that everyone is having their own internal battle of some kind, and you aren’t strange. There are many different ways your mental health can be affected as a student, and the two most common are:
- Depression. If you’re struggling to get out of bed and want to spend all your time sleeping, find yourself disconnected from classes and other people, and just feel consistently miserable and dispirited, you may have depression.
- Anxiety. Most people experience anxiety of some kind, but it can be much worse for some than others. Severe anxiety makes it difficult to eat, difficult to think about anything besides the thing that’s causing you anxiety, and can cause nausea and symptoms of sickness.
There are of course others, but many students will find their symptoms falling into either of these categories. New Zealand in particular has a culture of stoicism, so it can be very easy to tell yourself “I’m just sad or stressed, I don’t actually have depression.” Correctly identifying your unhappiness is the first step towards dealing with it.
If you identify with a particular mental illness, you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Almost all tertiary institutions provide student counselling services free of charge, where you can talk to someone who understands what you’re going through and is able to help and offer advice. If you receive an official diagnosis from a professional, you’ll be able to talk to your professors and tutors and work something out when you’re feeling too overwhelmed to work properly. You should also not hesitate to take time off from study to recuperate if you need to.
As a student, taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It affects not only your study but your everyday happiness and wellbeing. If you are concerned about your mental health, see a professional at your local doctor or student health centre as soon as possible. There are a number of free helplines you can call anytime if needed, as well as resources on offer to help you.