– Ruth Beacon

Uni Mental Health Day is upon us and this year Student Minds is focusing on opening up to friends about Mental Health issues. First off, I want to say a huge well done for making the choice to tell your friends that you have a mental health problem. The recent “Time to Talk” campaign aimed to tackle the awkwardness and stigma that surrounds conversations about mental health. It is somewhat reassuring that the difficulty and reluctancy in talking to friends/colleagues/family is not just suffered by you – everyone finds this difficult.

There is a way out, we must actively do something to change this and together as a network of people we can help each other talk more about mental health. University can be an incredibly lonely place, especially if you suffer with a mental health problem; anything could spark off feelings of anxiety, compulsiveness or sadness. This is why it vital that you tell someone you can trust, in order that they can keep you accountable and safe. So you may be thinking … “I am scared”, “what if people judge me?” or “how do I even tell my friends?!” . Well, here are a few tips on opening up…

  1. Write down your feelings: when you write how you feel it is easier to comprehend your thoughts and emotions. Writing them down enables you to think deeper into what and why you feel a certain way, perhaps you could then read this aloud to a friend.
  2. Rehearse what you will say: after writing something down you may want to practice what you will say. This may take the edge off or reduce anxiety. Remember – it’s ok to be scared and nervous. You are doing something very courageous which you will most likely thank yourself for
  3. Go to a familiar place to have the conversation: you and your friend may have a favourite spot to hang out – by going there to open up, it may relax you because it brings back good memories. This could be your Student Union centre, coffee shop or local park.

In the spirit of the campaign to disclose to friends at university, I am going to tell you how I told my friends in the hope that this will inspire you.

When I decided to tell my friends at university that I had been diagnosed with anorexia and depression and decided to take the year off studying to focus on my mental health, I had no idea how to do it! I knew that a big group of my church friends would be meeting up for the weekly student group and I felt this was the right time to do it as I was then, in the middle of treatment. I wrote down everything I wanted to say and emailed it to a close friend to read on my behalf as I wasn’t able to be there in person. I explained my diagnosis, where I was and how I felt. I was scared, very emotional and confused.

After, I am happy to say that I got a lot of wonderful, loving comments giving me hope and inspiration that I was doing the right thing. My friends reassured me that they would be there to support and encourage me to carry on, even when it felt rough and too hard to handle.

So, to everyone reading this, thank you. To those who are going to open up to their friend(s), it is such a relief once you tell someone, you don’t feel alone anymore and someone is there – to listen, to give you a hug or a pat on the back, telling you to carry on because it gets easier and life gets brighter.

University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is an annual event to promote the mental health of those who live and work in higher education settings. To find out how to get involved in the day, and to find out more about the #IChoseToDisclose campaign, visit www.studentminds.org.uk/uni-mental-health-day.

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