Why the long face?

sad-505857_1920I first became depressed a few years ago, although at the time it was quite mild and I didn’t recognise what was happening.

I was constantly tired, and I no longer enjoyed and ultimately stopped going out to meet friends. I stopped being interested in dating. I found it difficult to study and concentrate, and felt like I had no energy and was often physically ill. And despite being the thing I most needed, I found I was pushing my friends away, getting angry when they didn’t understand, and eventually losing touch with them.

The worst came last year when I suffered from spells of indescribable emptiness and loneliness and became suicidal. I’m not certain how exactly I got through it, but things that helped included having clear plans for the future (once I knew I was going to the College), seemingly small things like sunshine and exercise, but mainly also knowing that I could rely on a good friend.

I thought I had beaten it, but the switch back into a university environment at the College brought back some bad memories and one evening it all flooded back through me. It may be weird to think that I could feel such unbearable loneliness whilst surrounded by 350 people, but when I felt it starting I knew I was in trouble. I ran round my residence that evening trying to find a way to hurt myself but a phone call from a friend managed to calm me down before I did any damage.

Why am I writing this? Because my experience is not unusual, and I am still the same person, yet there is still a huge amount of stigma associated with mental health issues. I’m writing this anonymously because even if it’s not deliberate, most people think differently of you when you reveal what you’ve been feeling. I wish I were brave enough not to be anonymous, because in order to break the taboo, people need to understand that it’s not that uncommon, it doesn’t have to change your life, and that keeping mental health issues secret can make the problem worse (everything depends, but for me talking to a friend always helped).

In reality, ¼ of people experience a mental health issue in any given year and statistically speaking, several students in the College will have some sort of issue. Universities tend to be ‘hotspots’ for mental health issues, and the College does offer some help for those who need it. Ultimately the way in which depression can be helped is through more awareness, to break the taboo, and to help sufferers get the help they need. Having a mental issue doesn’t mean that you’re crazy, and if we can increase awareness, we can help to tackle the problem.


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