By Charlie Knights
With seemingly wall-to-wall parties, over 200 societies, sports, friends, and that annoying course sitting on top of it all, university is an interesting and pressure-filled time. With Mind Your Head week taking over the Students’ union, it’s always worth talking about the range of different ways you can get by during your time. Certain recent studies suggest that over a quarter of all university students suffer from a mental health problem at some point during their time of study. Those problems and conditions take a range of forms, varying from depression and anxiety, to stress, loneliness, and even feeling homesick. The main thing to understand is that those come to everyone. For most first years this is the first time living away from home, in an environment where it seems like it is all down to you.
Your union exists to support you through this transition, your sanctuary between home, just before the world of jobs and council tax. Elected officers exist ready to help you and represent you as they have been elected. Vice President of Welfare Hollie Cooke, and myself, Charlie Knights, as your Students’ with Disabilities officer, fight for mental health awareness, and try to make sure that all students have the specific support available to you, and know where to go. Their offices are always open for any student that needs support or advice.
If however, you find yourself wanting more help on other topics, Student Advice is the independent and confidential service that the Students’ Union provides on the 3rd Floor of the SU building on Park Place. You can either drop-in or get an appointment to chat about all sorts of issues from housing to consumer to personal and more. If you have any issue with landlords, with student finance, even if you just want a chat, the team is available any week day.
For a lot of students though, with course timings and lectures, clubs and socials, it’s often not then that you worry and need someone to talk to. Over the midnight hours in an unfamiliar flat, it could potentially get lonely. Cardiff Nightline is a confidential student led phone service. They provide information and serve as a listening ear and to students in the Cardiff area. Nightline is open every night during term time between 8pm and 8am. You can call them on 02920 87555 or use their Instant messaging service on their website. The volunteers are students just like us, who are fully trained to handle calls through training days and ongoing training sessions. Guest speakers are invited to talk at training sessions, to giving volunteers an insight into issues that may be faced by anyone in the student population. In the process of being Nightline volunteers, they learn skills that are transferable to the workplace and make new friends. They aren’t paid, they just listen, no lecturing.
If you aren’t comfortable to talk to other students however the Samaritans is also there, as a national charity who you can call if you need a chat or advice. They’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call them on the phone. This number is FREE to call. The number is 116 123.
But at the end of the day, it’s not a case of trained people, elected officers, and big organisations. Friends and housemates, course friends, lecturers, even that very talkative guy out in the smoking area of the students union. All of them, to some degree, care about your wellbeing. Open up about it, stigma is a purely mental block half the time. Once we open the conversation to each other, everything starts to make a little bit more sense and we can deal with it.