Coping with depression and loneliness at university

Today is University Mental Health Day, a chance for us all to raise awareness around mental health and the support available. If you’re struggling with your mental health at university you don’t have to go through this alone. Check out links to support at the end of this blog post, which includes everything from our NTU Student Support Services through to services within Nottingham.

By Miranda Lowe, MSc Psychological Wellbeing & Mental Health NTU student

Dealing with mental health issues whilst coping with the demands of university can be extremely challenging. Attempting to balance university deadlines and extra-curricular roles, whilst maintaining a good social life and staying physically healthy can be very difficult as it is. But when you have to cope with depression or anxiety on top of that, it becomes even harder.

I feel that a lot of us have this idealised image of going into university, as we are told they will be the best years of our lives and so we go in expecting to have the best time. But in reality, this is not always the case. I have depression and anxiety, and so suddenly moving away from my home comforts and adapting to an entirely different climate was very difficult for me. Not only do you have to adapt to a new education system, but you have all these responsibilities of adult life imposed upon you, and this can be a very isolating experience when you don’t have the presence of your family or closest friends to help you with this. I’m currently in my 4th year at NTU, and I feel that the moving and adaptation process to university life has definitely become easier throughout this time. However, I still have my bad days, where I wish I had the pleasure of those home comforts.

One thing I have struggled with in particular is maintaining friendships. As a typical student, I interacted with a number of different people: flatmates, people from my course and people in societies. Despite this, I found I never properly fitted in anywhere, and have fallen in and out of friendships over my three years of my undergraduate degree. I was constantly comparing myself to other students on social media who appeared to have a solid friendship group and appeared to be very happy. Because of this, I found myself questioning why I hadn’t found a healthy, solid friendship group, leading me to believe that there was something wrong with me.

These experiences really took a toll on my mental health. I felt extremely lonely and depressed, and this soon started having an impact on my motivation to stay on top of my studies and complete my normal day-to-day tasks. But most importantly, this made me worried about my future at university and made me doubt whether I would be able to make any friends in my masters due to all these bad experiences.

Looking back now, I realise this is a much more common issue than I originally thought. We all go into university expecting to have the best time, but in reality, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Although, I still struggle with my mental health, I am now in a much better place than I was during my undergraduate degree. I have met some wonderful friends on my master’s course, and I feel I have the right support to aid me through my postgraduate degree.

I would like to offer some advice to anyone who feels like they are struggling with what I went through currently.

1. Be patient and look after yourself. It is so easy to resort to self-blame when things are not going how you expected. As previously mentioned, adapting to a completely new lifestyle at university can be so difficult, so it is so important that we look after ourselves during this time. Recognise when you need to take things slower to look after yourself, and practice self-kindness.

2. Don’t believe everything you see on social media. When you see other students’ stories on social media of them on nights out with friends, it’s so easy to compare yourself and experience the dreaded FOMO. I have been guilty of doing this in the past, but I’ve learnt that most of the time things are not always what they seem. We always see people’s lives through rose-tinted glasses on social media, and so we never know what’s really happening in the background. It’s helpful to remind yourself of this, and to take breaks from social media when you need to.

3. Reach out for support when you need it. Whether this involves simply calling a close friend or family member, or seeking professional help from NTU Student Services, it is so important to reach out for help if you are struggling mentally. Having the right support system around you will make your feelings validated and will make you feel heard, and definitely shows that you are never alone in your struggles.

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

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