Here & now: Helen Glasse
Helen Glasse looks back on her mental health at university
In my last week as a student in Bath, the Methodist chaplain asked me: ‘What wise words do you have from your time in Bath?’ I found myself answering very little about my degree itself, and realised that some of the most important lessons that university life has taught me are those learnt far away from the classroom.
My three years at Bath were tough. I had the nightmare housemates that every parent hopes their child doesn’t encounter, and time and again my mental health came under strain. Instead of changing degree in the first few months of the course, I did so in the last month. Not that the whole experience was an eternal struggle – I treasure memories of my time studying and other very memorable experiences.
In March, I took on a challenge by Mind, the mental health charity, to run 27 miles in as many days, to raise money and awareness of the fact that 27% of students develop a mental health problem at some stage over the course of their degree. Ironically, on the day I completed the challenge, I was signed off sick from my placement due to a deterioration in my mental health. This wasn’t the first time my mental health had suffered, but it was the first time it had brought my plans and studies to a halt. In total, I was signed off for a month, in which I had a lot of time to think about how on earth I’d landed up where I was.
So the biggest lesson I learnt from university was that nothing is worth sacrificing one’s health for, physical or mental. As Mind’s statistics show, I am far from an anomaly. The recent media coverage of student suicides in Bristol is heartbreaking to read. For someone to experience such acute pain and stress that they feel the only resort is to end their life is hard to comprehend for those who have not been there. Neither is it just in Bristol that these suicides occur – it is a national issue, with students in increasing need of support for a variety of challenges. The book of Proverbs aptly describes this struggle: ‘A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.’
While it is vital for mental health professionals to support those struggling with mental ill health, social supporters also play a key role. Numerous studies have found that those with a strong network of social support are positively impacted…
Helen Glasse is youth representative for the United Reformed Church’s Eastern Synod
This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2019 edition of Reform