Mental Health and Students’ Academic Lives

students reading on grasshillImagine you are floating down a calm, serene river. You notice the current getting stronger as it hits your body making you sway from side to side. As the stream gets more turbulent you rise and sink. Keeping your body and head above the water gets more and more challenging, but you keep going down the stream. You come to a point where your body, let alone your mind cannot handle the violent turbulence of the river and you try to swim against the tide. However, at this point it is too late, fighting the tide makes your mind and body weaker and more tired. Yet you keep trying to, not only fight the current, trying to go back, but also, and more importantly, trying to breathe and keep your head above the water.

The river stream described above is your mental state and the growing turbulence are the factors that affect and dictate your mental health. Everyone has mental health. Many of us struggle with mental health problems and some of us will experience mental illness. As a student, your mental health matters. For students, the turbulences in the river stream can include stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance use disorders. All students experience stress, whether day-to-day or more intense or prolonged periods of stress. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use disorders are diagnosable mental illnesses that impact one in five Canadians, including university students.

Each student is an individual with challenges and experiences unique to them. And so, each student will respond to, tackle and address certain situations differently. Your mental health affects your academic, social and professional life, so it’s important to be proactive about building and maintaining mental health, understanding mental illnesses and their treatments, knowing how and when to reach out for help, and learning to talk openly about mental health so we can all break down the stigma that still exists.

For many students in university, the pressure from academics can induce stress. While day to day stress is normal and learning to manage it can help you build resiliency, prolonged or intense stress can have negative consequences for your health. Anxiety and depression, which are mental illnesses, are caused by a complex interplay between your environment, your biology, and genetics. Studies conducted have shown that depression can lead to poor academic performance (Hysenbegasi, Hass & Rowland, 2005). It is crucial to take steps to look after yourself and seek professional or peer support if necessary. In the next section, I have outlined and highlighted certain steps you can take to look after yourself; as well as resources in an around the UBC campus that you can use.

*Just a reminder that everyone is different and going through different feelings. These steps are general steps everyone can take to improve their mental well-being. *

What Steps Can You Take to Look After Yourself?

It is a vicious cycle: as students, we chase academic success. In return, we are weighed down by academic pressure, which can induce feelings of stress and sadness. Yet, we keep chasing. It is beneficial to

  1. Take a breather from time to time.
  2. Close your eyes and rest.
  3. Perform activities that make you happy and calm. These could include listening to music, watching movies and T.V. shows.
  4. Meditate, take a few deep breathes in and exhale slowly.
  5. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, take everything in.
  6. Spend time with people who are close to you.
  7. Reset your mind, it very much needs it.
  8. Take care of your body and mind by eating healthy food, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Keep in mind, no one is defined by their grade or GPA. University gets very hectic and one’s academics can lead the mind to spiral. However, it is important to note that there are services offered by the university to help students cope with and improve their mental well-being.

You are never truly alone in any journey you take. Reaching out and talking about one’s mental health is definitely the hardest step in the path of improvement; however, it is also the most important and the bravest step. Keep in mind, the following resources are accessible by all students and are here to help students struggling with their mental well-being.

These UBC related resources include:

  1. UBC AMS Speakeasy: talk to a trained peer who will take the time to really listen to your struggles
  2. UBC Wellness Centre: have a proactive wellness conversation with a Wellness Peer and learn about resources on campus
  3. UBC Counselling Services: talk to a Wellness Advisor or book a single-session appointment with a counsellor
  4. EmpowerMe: call to speak to a mental health professional 24/7 and to book an appointment with a counsellor in person, over the phone or via video chat

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