For most university students, studying is a stressful, anxiety-inducing time. So it’s no surprise that almost 70% of university students aged between 17 – 25 describe themselves as having poor or fair mental health.
For many, going to university marks a significant change in their lives, unlike any they may have experienced before. Moving out of home for the first time, away from familiar support networks, as well as having increased domestic and financial responsibilities, makes young people going through this experience one of the most vulnerable demographics when it comes to having poor mental health. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most likely groups to ‘fall through the cracks’ in terms of poor mental health being recognised, as the changes in their environment may mean that the changes in their mental health go unnoticed by those around them. This is a major factor in the high rates of depression and other mental illness’s in university students.
While depression and mental health in general are still relatively hidden and taboo discussion topics within society, reaching out and talking about ones mental health with trusted support networks, as well as professionals, can be a helpful coping mechanism. Lucia Pennisi, a first-year nursing student at University of Wollongong has been relatively open about her personal experiences with depression and how it has affected her studies, in the hope that it may encourage others to talk about their own experiences.
“At first I really didn’t accept my mental illness and just thought it was something that I could get through by myself,” she says. “I didn’t want to talk to my family members about it, and then it finally reached a point where I realised that if I wanted to get better I needed to seek help.”
Close friend of Lucia, Caitlyn Moore, has also faced struggles with her own mental health, but has been working to find healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms
“I have tried 5 different antidepressants (so far) and a mood stabiliser. I also seek help from counselors and psychologists, as a major issue for me is feeling like a burden if I talk too much about how I feel and how everything feels heavy,” she says.
“Depression is such an important illness to acknowledge as so often we feel for the people who have broken bones and sign their cast, but we aren’t there for those with impacted brains and mentalities.”
Whilst depression is still somewhat of a ‘hidden’ illness, individuals opening up and sharing their experiences can help others to learn and normalise living with depression.