The Sound Of The Silence

I find it absolutely bizarre when I hear about people refusing to believe that mental health problems are a real issue, and not just a name for a teenage, dark fringed fan of My Chemical Romance. I don’t mean to say that all 15 year old ‘emos’ believe they have mental health problems, nor do I mean to say that none of them do. I’m just baffled by the proportion of people who will assume that if, and only if, you fit this stereotype will you be bound to suffer from mental health issues.

To me it’s almost as strange as people who’ve never stumbled across mental illness in themselves, or their friends. I’ve suffered from depression on some level previously. But thanks to being in a friendship group that’s very open with their feelings, I knew that I was far from being alone. I’d guesstimate that coming up to 50% of close friends I know have suffered from some form of mental health issue at some point in their lives, ranging from bipolar disorder and depression, to anorexia and anxiety, to someone getting committed into a psychiatric unit at one stage as they’d become delusional.

I refuse to believe that I act as some sort of magnet for people with mental health issues. And the stats hasten to agree with this. Did you know 1 in 4 people will suffer from some kind of mental health issue over the course of a year? Not even their life – a year! And I think people not realising that ‘being depressed’ or whatever doesn’t have to be a permanent lifelong state is perhaps half the reason why people are skeptical of it. If you see someone claim to be depressed a few months later seem happy as Larry, then I believe people are prone to writing off the depressed phase as an over reaction.

I’m currently pretty happy with my life. I’m working well, I have a good friendship circle, a relationship that’s still in the happy honeymoon period, and as a whole, I’m really enjoying uni life. However, if you’d have talked to me a few years ago you would have got a completely different impression. You’d have seen me crying at frequent intervals for absolutely no discernable reason that you could make out from the situation, or even that I could tell you. Half the time I had nothing to attribute my tears to, other than an encompassing feeling of unhappiness. You’d have noticed I’d lost a decent amount of weight, and that I claimed to feel nauseous when I was faced by my concerned parents with meals. I’d have been a lot quieter, a lot less confident, and a lot less engaged by anything we were supposedly doing together. Hell, a lot of the time my close friends spent with me at that time was spent in absolute silence because I had nothing to say. You might have noticed, should you have for whatever reason been allowed to see them, that I had fresh scars stretched around my thighs that made me flinch when I leant against something. My extended family expressed concerns to my parents that they thought I becoming a drug addict. In reality I was just incredibly unhappy.

It didn’t last too long. Not really. Five months or so. But I worry that for a person at the moment to say ‘I’m depressed’, leaves people thinking that it’s a lifelong sentence. It’s not. I mean people can suffer from depression all of their lives, but it’s not a necessity to being depressed. According to, 50% of people who experience a mental health problem, will no longer be experiencing it after 18 months. My friends know that although I can be prone to being down, it’s not a constant state of mind for me. However, this needs to become a more widespread fact. People are still unwilling to acknowledge mental illness, or talk about their problems with it. And so it’s still regarded as a novel thing for someone to admit they have a mental health problem. And believe me it’s not an abnormal thing to have.  Mental illness is an incredibly common occurrence that absolutely anyone can suffer from – Rich, poor, black, white, boy, girl, it doesn’t matter. It’s also common enough that you’re incredibly likely to encounter it at some point in your life, be it through yourself or a friend suffering. The scarier thought is that you’ll encounter it and either you or whoever else will not feel confident talking about it. Because so many people remain silent about their experiences. Because bottling up and suffering alone surely  has to be the worst thing.

And so I’m hoping these blogs will make it easier to avoid that. I’m hoping that seeing other people – other students – write about their experiences with mental health will make it easier for others to do the same. I can’t see any other way than being completely open about mental health problems to fully get rid of any stigma still lingering around the problem. The uncomfortable silence surrounding mental health experiences needs to be broken.


How to cope with homesickness on your Year Abroad

– Trisha Mukerjee

Being away from home does seem exciting, but once you cross the bridge, you realise what home really means to you. In the first year of living abroad, homesickness is quite natural for students. It’s important to remember that this is an important part of growing up and becoming independent.  This feeling of missing home needs to be acknowledged in a constructive way and then work towards curbing and turning it into a strength rather than a reason to give up.

While at the time of your lowest, moving back home might seem tempting and it would require some sort of patience to keep a hold on to this feeling. Here are a few ways to help with the feeling of homesickness.

1. Take the initiative to make new friends: When you are in a different country, you should make sure that you take the initiative to make new friends. Even if you feel left out, and find it quite difficult to make friends, it’s worth it – friends are so important! No matter how difficult is it, it’s worth making the effort and taking the first step.

You could do any of the following:

  • Invite people over or go out with your classmates; make an effort to introduce yourself,
  • Mix in a diverse crowd! Going abroad is an opportunity to meet people you would never have met back home – so embrace it and don’t let any first impressions stop you from trying to get to know someone.
  • Don’t worry if you are naturally an introvert or a shy person – people will still want to be friends with you! People generally gel on well with shy and introvert people; they are often viewed as sympathetic and a termed as good listeners.
  • Lastly, remember that friendships grow gradually. Don’t force yourself on someone – let them take time to get to know you.

2. Try to enjoy your own company: At certain times, it really doesn’t matter if you have friends around you or not. Being abroad is also a chance to learn to enjoy your own company, and look after your wellbeing. One of the best ways to avoid being home sick is to be busy. Having a lot on your plate, helps you not to think too much about what you are missing at home You could try doing the following things to keep yourself busy and occupied:

    1. Sports, physical exercise, yoga, dance etc.
    2. Reading, or trying out creative hobbies like photography, writing, drawing etc.
    3. Pick up part time work that you like – this is also another way you could meet new people
    4. Explore your surroundings: When you have nothing better to do, go around the campus, explore every inch of it. Travel around! If you have the money you could even buy a bike, and cycle around.
    5. You could even try some volunteering work. If you’re at a university abroad, some campuses have a community development centre, where volunteering opportunities are advertised. Volunteering is a worthwhile activity, but it’s also good for your mental health.

3. Stay connected to your family and friends: Never ever lose touch with your family and friends from home. They’re a valuable source of support and can really boost your mood if you’re down. Whenever you miss them, just Skype or call them. In this digital world, communication has become incredibly easy across international borders.

4. If things are getting really bad, get support. Contact your university support services back at home, and if you’re at a university abroad, visit the counselling services. Talk to them, and don’t lose hope. Often, you’ll be able to get the support you need without having to come back home, but equally don’t feel like you’re necessarily making a mistake or ‘giving up’ by going back – the most important thing is to make sure that you’re getting the support you need so that things don’t get worse.

Cultivate a social life, keep yourself busy, enjoy course work and always remember – your home is always there for you. Now is the time to grow and spread your wings!

Trisha MukerjeeAuthor Bio: Trisha is a professional writer and adviser on education and careers. She is an ardent reader, a traveller and a passionate photographer. She wants to explore the world and write about whatever comes across her way.

The Value of Peer Support

There is love and support all around you

– Rosie Liddell

In my interactions with young people as a counsellor, I have found that a large part of what helps someone to cope with the difficulties they’re experiencing is setting up for them a support network. A support network is a map of anybody that you can talk to and get support from. Not only does it help signpost young people to what help and support is available to them, it also helps to combat feelings of isolation and helplessness. It helps to send a message to that person that whatever they’re going through does not have to be something that they struggle with alone; they deserve and can have support.

What constitutes a support network can be a mixture of personal and professional services – family, friends, and counsellors being common sources of support. Importantly, what constitutes part of that network can be peer-support – a method of support whose value should not be underestimated.

I currently help to run a listening service for students that operates as a form of peer-support due to the organisation’s volunteers comprising of students. There is something immensely valuable in having and promoting services, such as this, that help to give students the opportunity to speak to someone who is close to you in age about what you are going through. While all of our experiences are going to be in some sense individual, as students we can identify with each on a range of issues relating to life at university. Issues such as academic stress, relationships, university procedures, and house troubles are issues that can affect all of us. As a result, these issues bring us closer together and provide the means for support.

Therefore, while external help from counselling services and other professional services may be helpful, there is a sense in which talking through your experiences with someone who can identify with at least some of what you’re going through reinforces the idea that you don’t have to struggle all on your own.

If you look at the message boards on the Childline website, you can see a sense of collective support: if a young person has a problem, other young people can provide insight and guidance on how to cope due to the fact that a lot of them have gone through similar things themselves or know someone who has. That sort of support can be invaluable in helping a young person recover.

Peer support is often invaluable to the supporter as well. Students who have volunteered for Nightline or attended a Student Minds peer support group have reported that being in a position to help other students with mental health difficulties has made them feel valued and contributed hugely to their wellbeing. It isn’t even necessary that students have the ‘solutions’ or ‘answers’ to the difficulties someone is facing – students can play a key role in somebody’s recovery just by being there to say that they have been through the same difficulties before and understand what those difficulties are like.

Peer Support Options at University

There are lots of peer support options at university. One option is a listening service for students such as Nightline. There are over 60 Nightlines who provide peer support in the UK. For more information you can look at the Nightline association’s website: Meanwhile, the helpline GetConnected is a service that connects young people to a specific helpline for support on specific issues:

Student Minds runs a network of peer support groups for eating disorders and depression. These groups are facilitated by trained student volunteers, who are there to listen to the experiences of students attending and ensure that the conversation is pro-recovery. They are an opportunity for students to come to a place where they can talk openly in a safe and non-judgemental environment, and share experiences and coping strategies with other students. More information can be found here:

Finally, for young people up to the age of 19, the Childline Website has a lot of useful information on topics affecting young people, including help in getting support and the message boards provide support and insight from other young people.

For many students, peer support is a vital component of their recovery. For yet more students, peer support is an important way that they can give back to the student community and make use of their experience and position as fellow student. Let’s not underestimate the value of peer support – both for the supported, and the supporters.

“Nobody is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”
Charles Dickens

Eating Disorders: Mythbusting II

– Rose Liddell

Following on from Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I thought it would be appropriate to write an article busting myths about eating disorders. Eating Disorders are probably one of the most controversial mental health difficulties in contemporary society, and as a result many people with eating disorders experience severe stigmatisation and misunderstanding. There are a lot of myths surrounding eating disorders, so this article is about dispelling these myths in the hope that eating disorders can be understood without prejudice and that those suffering from eating disorders are given the same empathy and support as we would expect to have for suffering from any physical illness.

Myth One: Eating Disorders are a lifestyle choice 

One of the most common myths about eating disorders is that eating disorders are similar to going on a diet, there is the misconception that eating disorders are purely about the goal of losing weight and therefore, it is easy for the person suffering from an eating disorder to stop or to decide to eat more to put on weight. Some even have the view that having an eating disorder is merely being vain or “attention seeking”, losing weight just to look “thin” or to attract attention to themselves.

Myth-bust: Eating Disorders are not necessarily about the goal of losing weight or trying to be thin. Eating disorders, like many other mental health difficulties, have complex causes and so it’s really difficult to try and find one standard trigger or cause for why a person can develop an eating disorder. Furthermore, for many suffering from an eating disorder, it is such a burden that it is often incapacitating, some suffering from an eating disorder are incapable by themselves of putting on the weight that they need to to in order to survive, so in that instance, it can be incredibly hard to stop or eat more when the illness has such a hold on the person. Therefore, having an eating disorder is not something that a person chooses or wants, and it can be incredibly hard to just “deal with” and “get out of”. Furthermore, an eating disorder is not merely a “phase” or a “fad” that a person goes through, but a genuine mental health difficulty that should receive empathy and the offer of treatment as with any physical or mental illness.

Myth Two: Eating disorders are just about someone’s relationship with food

There is the misconception that an eating disorders is just about the relationship with food, and that the problem of binge eating or perhaps controlling the amount of food that you eat is purely to do with whatever feelings and attitudes a person has towards eating.

Myth-bust: Eating disorders are highly complex and difficult to understand. There are multiple causes and triggers, which means that someone experiencing an eating disorder is not just having nonstandard attitudes towards food. Some eating disorders can arise as a way of coping with a particular external situation that is affecting the person. The ability to control something such as food might be the only way in which a person affected can cope with whatever is happening around them. However, even if we can factor in what is happening in that person’s external situation, it is still difficult to pinpoint exactly what brings about an eating disorder.

Myth Three: If someone has an eating disorder, then we should blame the family

Some take the view that someone suffering from an eating disorder has the eating disorder because of their family. They may argue that families cause the person to suffer from an eating disorder and therefore it is the family’s fault why someone suffers from an eating disorder in the first place.

Myth-Bust: The idea that it is the family’s fault why someone is suffering from an eating disorder is a historical idea that actually is a complete myth and has no factual basis. Eating disorders are genuine mental health difficulties and as a result cannot be in the control of the person suffering or indeed the family.

Eating disorders, like many other mental health difficulties, can place a heavy emotional burden not just on the sufferer but also on their loved ones, and families can often feel powerless watching their loved one suffer as their physical and mental well-being deteriorates whilst being helpless to do anything to stop it. On the other hand, families can actually be key into helping that person recover, and there is lots that they can do to help.

Myth Four: Eating disorders only affect young girls and women

Myth Bust: Whilst statistically, more females appear to suffer from eating disorders than men, at the same time these same statistics clearly show that there are a large number of men who get eating disorders too. Mental health difficulties can affect anyone. They make no discrimination as far as age, race or gender is concerned, so to assume that an eating disorder can only affect females is a fundamental mistake. It may be that statistically more females suffer from eating disorders (why this is we might not understand quite yet), but perhaps part of the reason why statistically women appear to suffer from eating disorders more so than men is that there is much less awareness of men suffering from eating disorders. Perhaps men are less likely to come forward and reveal they have an eating disorder. As a society, we expect eating disorders to affect women more than men, perhaps because of media pressures for women to pay attention to their appearances, and in particular to be “thin”, it surprises us when we find that men suffer from eating disorders too. But as discussed previously, eating disorders are not brought primarily due to media pressures or influences to be thin but are a combination of highly complex factors. Most importantly, eating disorders often have a genuine biological basis, which makes onset independent of external environmental factors. What is worth noting is that both for men and women, eating disorders are on the increase. Both men and women with eating disorders should be treated equally with the same degree of empathy and support.

Myth Five: It is easy to tell if someone is suffering from an eating disorder

There is a view that it is easy to identify someone suffering from an eating disorder, due to the fact that there are drastic changes in their weight and appearance to an extent that they don’t look “normal”.

Myth Bust: Someone does not have to have drastic physical changes in order to have an eating disorder. Those who are bulimic, for example, have a relatively “normal” weight, so someone suffering from an eating disorder cannot necessarily be identified by their size and weight alone. Someone who looks “thin” may not necessarily be suffering from an eating disorder, but someone who looks overweight may be suffering from a compulsive overeating disorder. Therefore, the view that it is easy to tell if someone is suffering from an eating disorder is mistaken.

Eating disorders can be highly challenging to a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. It’s important to recognise all aspects of what someone with an eating disorder is going through, rather than just focussing on the physical effects, the effects you might be able to see. Eating disorders should be taken very seriously, as should any other mental health difficulties.

This doesn’t mean that it is impossible for a person to recover, given the right support and treatment. By becoming aware of eating disorders and their complex nature, we can help to reduce the stigma surrounding eating disorders and create a better understanding of how eating disorders work. That way, we’ll be able to give more effective help and support to those who are suffering.

Check out Student Minds’ resources on understanding eating disorders and how to a friend or close one with an eating disorder:

B-eat is an eating disorders charity in the UK with information and resources on eating disorders: 

Information about eating disorders and common myths can also be found on the National Institute of Mental Health’s website at

There is also information and advice for support on the Alliance for Eating Disorders website which can be found at the address:

For children and young people suffering from eating disorders, Childline also offers help and support as well as information about eating disorders for young people. 

For men with eating disorders, check out Men Get Eating Disorders Too:

Dear My Previous Self…

Dear my previous self – getting personal

– Ruth Beacon

The post you are about to read is a little different from the rest. This is a letter that I wish I would of read at the beginning of my recovery. It is written to my former self, not knowing where or what was happening. These are things that I now know and have learnt.

This is for all those in recovery- inpatient, outpatient, discharged from adult eating disorder specialist, those freshly diagnosed with an eating disorder; at university or home.



Dear my previous self,

You may feel completely lost, confused and lifeless. That is the reality of an eating disorder. It isn’t a glamorous illness. I know you are cold (from the bone), constantly hungry, and lonely.

I want you to know that the pain you cannot describe does fade. The bigger your life gets, the smaller anorexia becomes.

There are a few things that I want to tell you, remember:

  • Recovery is worth it: Every tear, mouthful and psychology session is going to be worth it. Once you experience life again you will realise that there is more to life than anorexia. Having the freedom to think beyond rituals and rules feels liberating, living a ‘normal’ life seems in reach.
  • You are amazing just the way you are: Think about all those people that love you; send you encouraging texts, messages and cards. They love you for your personality and all your quirky bits. Inner beauty shines out.
  • Scared? Nervous? Fearful? That is ok: These feelings are natural and are to be expected. Change is scary! Change means facing your fears, talking about feelings that you want to hide and gaining weight. Recovery is worth it! as who wants to fear food?
  • Listen to medical professionals and those around you: Medical professionals have had years and years of training, they know what they are talking about. LISTEN and TRUST them. You are not the first anorexic they have seen and the medical professionals have watched people recover and live their lives. Family and friends only want to see you get the help you need, so take on board their advice. Ultimately, it is up to you.
  • You can live without anorexia: Anorexia holds you back, lies, manipulates you, stops you living your life and it dominates completely. You probably think you cannot live without it, but you can, there are coping mechanisms that really really help. It’s power over you diminishes and you become more in control of the eating disorder (and not the other way around).
  • You are not alone: I know you feel alone and the only person there has ever been to suffer with an eating disorder. However, there are lots and lots of people who suffer with eating disorders,  you are not isolated in this (side note: I have made lots of new friends from being an inpatient and there is a bond because we have all been through the same thing and kept each other strong).
  • This experience is not wasted: You may not believe this now but you will be grateful for all you have been through. It has made you realise what is important in life and you can empathise with people who are going through similar situations. You may be the one giving advice in the future!
  • Hope: There is a light at the end of the tunnel, life becomes brighter again. You realise there is hope. People teach you this and you realise this for yourself. Hope is what drives you to keep going. It is a beautiful feeling.
  • You are strong: Only one person has got you through this and that is YOU. You are the one who has worked so incredibly hard, you deserve happiness and you are STRONG.

Love, Ruth x

This blog was written for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. You can find other inspirational stories of recovery on the Student Minds website, as well as information about where to get support if you are experiencing an eating disorder at university.

How volunteering can help you



– Grace Anderson

Graduating from university fills many students with dread. The prospect of being outside the university bubble and having to “grow up” and get a “real job” in the “real world” is a daunting experience for many. This is why getting the experience before you leave could help you out in the long run.

Yes, I understand you may have a lot of work on at university, but this could reduce your future stress! Personally, I know that you can get a degree whilst volunteering at the same time, providing you don’t put too much on yourself. Trust me – it’s possible (remember how many hours there are in a day!).

Going out and doing something outside of university may be just what you need, giving you the chance to forget about all your academic worries and focus instead on something else. Do you want to put a spring in your step? This can happen through volunteering. Simply by giving up a few hours of your time, you can help others and make a difference, and you’ll feel happier as a result.

Research conducted by Citizens Advice Bureau indicated that volunteering boosts self-esteem, employability and health, especially mental health. So not only does volunteering benefit the people you help, but it can, most importantly, help you! It can provide you with the ability to cope and come to terms with your own illness, take your mind off your own problems, meet new people, and develop a sense of purpose.

I can guarantee (even if you don’t personally believe it) that you have a skillset that you can provide to services and causes near your university. It might be excellent communication, team work, or having a passion for working with children or people with special needs. You could be an asset to a company or organisation, and all you have to do is offer your services to them. Not only do they gain your help but you also grow and develop as a person and learn more skills to better equip you for life after university.

Do something today and make a difference not only to your personal health but to your community – and your future.

Student Volunteering Week is an annual campaign with the aim to raise awareness of the value of student volunteering, celebrate the impact of existing work in the community and inspire more students to get involved and make a difference in society.

If you’ve been inspired by this post to consider volunteering for Student Minds, check out our Get Involved page to find out all the ways you can join the work we do, whether that’s online or offline, on campus or elsewhere!

Anorexia is just about wanting to be skinny…right? Myth Busting

– Ruth Beacon

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a time to make people aware of the seriousness of Eating Disorders (ED’s) and to give a voice to those who are suffering. To give perspective, this time last year I made the decision to admit myself into an inpatient ward for anorexia. A year on, my life has completely changed (for the better). I am back at university (I nearly gave it up so to go back is a mighty achievement), have a job and am a proud owner of my very own car!

Now that I have had personal experience of anorexia, I decided to combat some of the myths that people may believe or think about ED’s.

To clarify, the conditions under the umbrella of eating disorders are:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Binge Eating Disorder
  4. Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ENDOS)

The majority of this post will be from an anorexia view point, but it is applicable to bulimia, binge eating disorder and ENDOS.

EATING DISORDER MYTH: Isn’t anorexia just about wanting to be skinny?

MYTH BUSTER: No… is binge eating disorder just about “eating a bit too much?” or is depression just about “being sad?”… the answers to all these questions is no.

Here’s why: An Eating Disorder is a complex mental illness. Anorexia along with bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS, is a result of many social, psychological and emotional factors in an individual’s life. It does not boil down to “just wanting to be skinny”.

Eating disorders can be:

  • a coping mechanism
  • a way of taking control
  • a way of making yourself feel more positive about your appearance
  • a distraction from everyday life or a negative life event

Anorexia can start off as a “simple diet” but quickly snowballs into a radical obsession with weight and shape. Bulimia and binge eating disorder centre around eating large amounts of food (thousands of calories worth) and with bulimia either: purging, taking laxatives or starving after, because the guilt is too strong. Someone who struggles with bulimia or binge eating disorder can be of a normal weight, and not all individuals with ED’s have lost large amounts of weight.

The feeling of taking control is something that is at the crux of eating disorders. By controlling, often limiting food, it gives the person a sense of control, especially if they feel like nothing is going right or everything is spiralling out of their control. Taking control in this way is coupled with intense thoughts and feelings around food.

Eating disorders are about anything but food, instead they are linked to social, emotional and psychological issues that are deeply ingrained within an individual.

EATING DISORDER MYTH: When you become weight restored (after being diagnosed asanorexic), you are better and fully recovered.

MYTH BUSTER: No, this is not the case. When you have treatment for anorexia, it is two fold:

  1. Physical recovery – this means getting the person’s weight and BMI back in the normal range (which is considered to be 18.5- 25). When a person reaches the correct weight for them, normal bodily functions begin (periods etc). Cognitively, the brain starts to work again and a person thinks more clearly, making it easier to have psychological treatment.
  2. Mental recovery – this is a much longer process and does not happen as quickly as people believe; mental recovery takes time, this could be years. If you think how long someone could have been stuck in their eating disorder ways for, think how long reversing those thoughts can take. It is complex and involves psychological treatment, support, hard work and determination.

If someone is diagnosed with an ED that means body weight is not necessarily affected e.g. binge eating disorder, the “mental recovery” phase is targeted. It various from person to person but psychological treatment for an eating disorder is the route that is taken.

The team involved in treatment of ED’s is multi disciplinary and includes: GP’s, nurses, psychologists, dieticians, healthcare assistants, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, medical consultants, physiotherapists and the invaluable help from family and friends.

The above myths take many forms but the answers remain the same. If you are struggling with an eating disorder and cannot explain answers to questions, maybe you could link this post to a friend or family member. If you are supporting a friend with an ED, I hope this sheds light on the complicating and confusing world of eating disorders.

People may look physically recovered but fighting the eating disorder thoughts is a difficult daily task. I see recovery as being able to live a normal life- working, studying, going out with friends, being independent and not letting an eating disorder dominate your every moment. Of course, the definition for recovery is different for everyone but being able to live a ‘normal’ life is something

In my personal experience and from watching others, as I now get on with my life, the person who is living with an ED has to want to get better and work with the team treating them. It is a tough journey, as are recovery from all illnesses, but the outcome is so worth it.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week takes place 23rd February – 1st March. To find out more about eating disorders, check out our resources. If you’re looking to run awareness-raising events or campaigns during the week, you might be interested in holding a “Love Your Body” campaign, which aims to inspire body confidence in everyone. Campaign materials for Love Your Body can be found here.