Fight off Fresher’s fright: top tips to combat mental health issues at university

We’ve all heard the rumours of Fresher’s flu, but how many of us have been warned of the dangers of Fresher’s fright?

Numbers of students battling with mental health issues is rising faster than ever before. And yet somehow, it’s still a closet issue. Very few people have the confidence to stand up and offer support, never mind admit they are struggling.

For example, almost 9 out of 10 of first year students find it difficult to cope with social or academic aspects of university life (The Guardian annual Student Experience survey) which often leads to anxiety. The Guardian also found that the number of university drop outs due to mental health issues has trebled since 2010.111

So we thought we’d offer a few top tips to help prevent, or relieve the symptoms and struggles of mental health issues as a university student:

1. Look after yourself

There really is some truth behind the phrase: healthy body, healthy mind.

Spend some time focussing on your daily routine. Are you getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night? Are you eating a balanced diet of 3 meals a day? And are you getting any exercise?

2. Don’t lock yourself in

When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it often feels like the easiest or even best thing to do is hide yourself away in your room. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the emotional capacity to socialise or you don’t want to be a burden on those around you, but honestly, staying on your own only allows your mind to wander and problems to escalate.

Even if there’s only one or two people you feel you can talk to or spend time with, make sure you do. Don’t feel guilty about being in a low mood – true friends should be there for you through the good, the bad and the ugly!

3. Surround yourself with positive people

So once you do get out of your room, try and prioritise spending time with people that are both understanding and motivating. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be helpful to spend time with other people going through similar issues to you, but you also need people that will encourage you to head to your lectures and maybe join them on a social outing.

4. Set goals

Looking ahead may seem daunting right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set goals.

Start small – what do you want to have achieved by the end of this week? Maybe even tonight? Have a checklist – even ticking off that you did the food shop can encourage you that you got out of bed!

5. Try something new

University is the best time to branch out and try something new. Whilst this can be especially hard when feeling anxious and depressed, occupying yourself with hobbies or sports you enjoy is one of the best remedies.

Maybe ask a friend or flatmate to go with you to a society event or one of the university’s sports sessions.

MMU has a range of free sport sessions that require no commitment and are for all abilities.

6. Rest and renew

So while points 1-5 have been centred around making sure you don’t stay in your room and that you stay pro-active, some of you may actually be struggling with mental health because you don’t give yourself enough free time. Anxiety can build up when not addressed, and filling your diary can sometimes just put off feelings that need dealing with.

Maybe try looking over your week and scheduling a time when you sleep in, watch a film or unwind with a hobby you like to do on your own.

7. Know your limits

You might be looking for a solution for your suffering, but try to avoid becoming vulnerable to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. We understand that these are often used socially, but respect your limits. Getting high or drunk may take your mind off your mental health for a night but you’ll only wake up feeling worse. Of course, there are no long term health benefits to such things either.

8. Treat yourself

One of the stresses of being at uni can often be money. Maybe your student finance doesn’t quite cover your rent or you struggle to budget well. Firstly we recommend that you ask for advice. MMU has a great finance support team .

Secondly, still try and budget in some treats for yourself – even if they’re really cheap. Some of our favourites include 99p face masks and Lidl’s own brand 30p chocolate!

Treating yourself can lift your mood but also give you some perspective that while money is tight, you can manage it and still enjoy yourself.

9. Know you’re not alone

While this is number 9 on the list, this is one of our most crucial points.

As we said at the beginning, so many students struggle with mental health. This means if you mention to a random student that you are struggling with mental health, they are more than likely to be able to relate – or at the very least, know others who are in the same boat. So don’t be afraid to speak up. And definitely don’t think it’s your fault – because statistically speaking, it can’t be.

10. Get yourself the help you need

If you still feel you can’t speak up about what you’re dealing with, here are some links for different forums and charities that you can get in contact with.

OCD UK

Anxiety (08444775774 Mon-Fri 9.30-5.30)

Depression Alliance

Samaritans (116123)

Men’s Health Forum

MMU also has a ‘counselling, health and wellbeing service’ with specific advice for different mental health issues.

The MMU GP is also really close to campus and will be able to help you – doctors there will be well trained to deal especially with student mental health needs. 1111

We hope this has helped. Feel free to comment with any other useful links or things that have helped you.

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Has Manchester been Convinced?

Manchester’s biggest four university Christian Unions celebrated the finale of a week of public events last night at the Place Apart Hotel.

University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, University of Salford and RNCM all held events throughout the week, with the universities’ Christian Unions at the centre of the planning and running of the week entitled ‘Convinced‘.

Christian Union (CU) members appeared to take publicity very seriously as over eighty people could be spotted throughout Greater Manchester wearing a red sweatshirt with the event logo printed on the front. Leafleting was also on the CUs’ agendas.

The week of events began on Monday the 20th of February; commencing with ‘lunch bars’ at the University of Manchester. The lunch bars continued throughout the week in all four campuses featuring food and a topical talk such as ‘What would Jesus say to Donald Trump’. Wednesday’s talk was from Sir Colin John Humphreys, who is a director of research at Cambridge University, and he spoke about how science and God can coexist.

Each day also included a free ‘banquet’ for international students at Union Hall by the MMU Birley campus with each night having the theme of a specific continent. One attender, Kitt Ellison, 19, MMU student, said: “I really enjoyed the USA themed evening. Great food and a great and interesting talk.”

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The first international banquet

But perhaps most excitingly, were the evening events held in the Kings House Conference Centre, next to the Aquatic Centre. These included Scottish dancing (a ceilidh), a Bake Off themed evening, and a ‘fun fayre’. Over 120 students turned up each night to join in the fun and end the night with a short talk by Adrian Holloway : each talk featuring the word Concvinced such as Convinced there is hope.

Convinced Ceilidh! from Naomi Armstrong on Vimeo.

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Speaker Adrian Holloway

The Christian Unions are all supported by UCCF, a non-profit organisation that works in universities nation-wide. Adam Jones, overseer for the North-West region was tweeting throughout the week:

All evenings were also free of charge except for the Grand Finale which was held at the Place Apart Hotel in the Northern Quarter. The evening dress code was simply ‘no jeans and trainers’ and guests were treated to fancy desserts and live music from popular student brass band Tuba Slap . One attender, Hannah Carroll, 19, said: “Tuba Slap were amazing! They played absolute classics that everyone could dance along too. Want to hire them for all my future events already!”

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Tuba Slap playing at the Place Apart Hotel

One attender, Natalia Charalambous, 20, from Fallowfield summed up what appeared to be the consensus view of the week: “Every event was just brilliant. Each time you thought they couldn’t get better, we were taken by surprise. And the week just ended on such a high with the best party ever in such a fancy venue.”

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Wednesday’s Bake Off themed evening

Manchester City Council: Funding cuts to be expected?

Manchester City Council has been keeping countless charities running for years and has even encouraged and supported many non-profit organisations to get lifted off the ground. However after talking to staff at the Northmoor Community Association, it looks like much of this funding can be expected to reduce.

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In an interview with Giselle Bawden, staff member at Northmoor Community Association, it became clear just how vital the MCC funding really is. The following sound clip demonstrates this as she says that the council’s funding is their ‘life-blood’.

Later on in the interview, Giselle said that she became aware of the funding cuts at a workshop that was held on the 13th of February – one of three dates that offered those that work in the voluntary sector a chance to voice their opinions and to hear the plans the council has for the near future.

Although there have been no documents published to the MCC website that suggest the cuts, they can be expected given that organisations such as Northmoor Community Association are being prepared to tackle them.

But this raises the question, what will the impact be? And of course, are these cuts really necessary?

We asked the people of Manchester: ‘What do you think the impact of budget cuts to charity organisations in Manchester will be?’ These are the responses:

Lydia Wood, 31, a gardener from Hulme said: “Well I feel like lots of charities are already struggling to keep running so I can imagine that we’ll see a real difference. I sometimes like to do gardening for community centres and so I see the progress such places make with the right financial support.”

Elaine Yau, 23, an intern from Withington said: “I suppose the public will have to step in a little more with fundraising and volunteering. It’s a shame but really we should be able to pull resources together.”

Andy Willoughby, 42, a construction site manager from Bolton said: “I don’t get it. If the council spent a little less on things like the arts then surely we could keep vital charities running.”

Dave Sinclair, 19, a teaching assistant from Longsight said: “I think we’ll see lots more people on the streets and struggling to find work. It’ll create more of a crisis for the council that will end up simply costing them more money.”

Northmoor Community Association: “the heart of our community”

In a recent post, Silver Linings interviewed Giselle Bawden, member of staff at Northmoor Community Association in Longsight, Manchester and we looked at the possibility of council budget cuts.

Now we would like to look in more detail at what NCA does for it’s community and the effect suggested cuts would really have.

Councillor Suzanne Richards, whose ward is Longsight, said: “the centre can quite rightly be referred to as the heart of our community in the Northmoor area of Longsight.”

Here Giselle talks about how the centre started up:

Located on Northmoor Road, the centre really is at the heart of the community. And after an interview with Giselle Bawden, it becomes apparent that the centre is an integral hive of activity.

Giselle said:  “We are very much a preventative service, we are trying to prevent people from going into more of a crisis, you pull us out, then you’ll see what a crisis is gonna come and it’s gonna cost the government even more money, it’ll end up costing the council even more money,”

“You talk about homeless, you’ll end up having more people homeless, more people, because it actually does spiral, I mean you can only take so much away from the person until they’ve lost everything.”

The centre runs a wide scope of programs and activities including a cafe at the front of the building where people can purchase a hot meal for £1 and dessert for 50p. Arriving for our interview at 2pm, we found they had totally sold out, which apparently is a regular occurrence.

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Not only is the centre tackling poverty, but also adult education and social services are high on their priority list. Giselle explained: “We run our own project which is called the ‘Next Step Project’ and that encompasses a whole range of different employability skills, different digital things, in order to support all different complex sorts of people with complex issues, with complex needs.”

The staff team expressed that there is an increasing need for adult education because so many manual labourers are being made redundant that have never been taught literacy and IT skills. Giselle said: “they’re literally like a baby, they’re having to start all over again.”

Cllr Richards expressed how important the NCA really is for the Northmoor area: “At a time when so many vital community services are under threat Northmoor Community Centre have been stepping up and plugging the gaps. I know that without the vital services and support they provide our community would suffer.”

Despite the threat of budget cuts looming over the staff members’ heads, Cllr Richards says in a letter written this March: “As a local Councillor I want the Centre to have a stable future and be able to continue to do the good work they do in our community.”

Giselle told us that because funds are already low, all of the staff can only be part time and therefore most people are volunteers. Not only this, but many projects require external support. For example, to teach English to adults who have different mother tongues, the centre must employ somebody that has qualified with a TESOL course certificate.

Of course, aside from this, providing meals for £1 each is certain to leave the centre with no profit and perhaps even create a financial loss.

But as Cllr Richards said, it is clear that this centre is too important to the deprived area it calls home to be held back from achieving the massive impact it has on people’s lives and wellbeing.

A quick scan of Longsight’s news from the Manchester Evening News shows how much the area needs a helping hand. Stories of grooming and vandalism are examples of recent incidents. However, the MEN also gives the area credit where it is due for being “a bustling area home to one of Manchester’s most diverse communities” and for hosting “one of the city’s busiest markets”.

Here you can see the kind of food that the centre provides for the community.

But it’s important to remember that the charity does much more than provide people with a hot meal. For more current information, follow the link to their Twitter feed.