We need to talk about student mental health.

One in four adults are said to have a mental health problem at any one time. Within the student population, a study conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2015 found that 78% of students reported having had a mental health problem in the past year, with 33% encountering suicidal thoughts. [1]

This is set against the background of an NHS plagued by financial pressures and a marked increase in demand for university counselling services. [2] With services stretched to such a degree, it is essential that each of us find healthy ways to manage our own mental health and wellbeing.

We can also do little things for those around us. Seemingly inconsequential acts of kindness can be the difference between a person having a good or bad day. From a text message letting someone know that you’re thinking of them, to inviting a friend over for coffee, fostering a culture of openness through conversation is the first step in creating a society that isn’t afraid to talk about our feelings.

If you’ve noticed that a classmate has been absent from several classes, or perhaps they have seemed to be unusually quiet, take today as an opportunity to reach out and say hello. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a mental health professional to be a good listener. You don’t need all the answers to their problems. A listening ear is sometimes all that is needed for someone who has been battling their inner demons alone.

Given the pressures and demands of studying at university, it is understandable that your mental health may struggle. Seeking help is not a weakness; it is an act of strength to stop and say “hey, I’m really not doing too good right now. I need a bit of help”.

How do I know this? I have been that student. I have experience of mental health problems. But through seeking help from friends, my GP and LSE’s wellbeing services, I was able to get through my MSc and am now working full-time as a graduate intern. I am not ashamed to say that I needed help, and it has made me a healthier, stronger person as a result.

Ultimately, we all have mental health; just as we all have physical health.

So as the new academic term kicks off, reach out to a classmate and start those conversations. It might be the most important thing you’ll do today.

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