High levels of anxiety, loneliness, substance abuse, and even thoughts of self-harm were discovered as a result of a poll of almost 38,000 UK students, suggesting that rates of psychological distress and illness are on the rise in universities. When it comes to returning to university after taking a break due to mental health issues, many students struggle with recovery, and could potentially end up in an even worse situation than they were in before taking leave. From the importance of asking for help to maintaining a positive environment, there are several notable ways that students can take action.

Asking for help

For many students, asking for help is imperative in order to stay on the path to recovery and adjust to university life, but they may be hesitant due to the negative stigma associated with doing so. Thankfully, universities are working to help by offering a wide range of helpful resources. The University of Cambridge, for example, has University Counselling services that offer a variety of support, including mental health advisors, workshops, and self-help resources such as guides and books.

Many other universities also have a number of resources available to aid in adjusting back to life on campus after a mental health break. These may include extensions on deadlines, and peer support groups. Some universities may offer student-led options as well. While they aren’t qualified counsellors, talking to someone who is a similar age may be more approachable for those who are struggling, and could bring valuable insight into readjusting to university life when dealing with issues like stress. 

Managing treatment effectively

Properly managing mental health treatment may be another area of difficulty when students are adjusting back to university life. Mishandling mental health treatments, such as by skipping medication doses or missing doctor/therapy appointments, can be detrimental to recovery. However, while such an issue can be rectified with a proper schedule and utilising university resources, those who have been on the same antidepressants for years may find themselves with another issue entirely. 

While antidepressants may work well for many people, those who have been taking antidepressants for several years may begin to feel as though the treatment is no longer helping. However, unconventional options may offer a unique solution for those whose treatment has come to a standstill, and recent research shows that the use of psychedelic drugs may hold a number of benefits to those struggling. Treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with the drug MDMA, or ecstasy, is just one example of treating mental illness with psychedelics: MDMA helps people to feel more relaxed and be more open with their therapist, and can even help patients to explore their trauma. This can help greatly in processing trauma effectively, although it’s certainly not the right treatment for everyone. University mental health services should ensure that all students are aware of their options so they can make the right decision for them.

Maintaining a positive environment

There’s no doubt that uni life can wreak havoc on someone already experiencing a mental health issue. This is particularly problematic for students with random mealtimes, a lack of routine and sleep, and exam stress. It can also be exacerbated by heavy drinking and party-hard lifestyles. By making it a point to keep a regular schedule, you can effectively make healthier lifestyle choices and stick to a regimen that benefits your mental health. Maintaining a positive environment can also be done by surrounding yourself with a support network, which studies show can improve the ability to cope with stressful situations and alleviate the effects of emotional distress.

It's common for students to face mental health challenges during their life at university, and taking a break from studies can be helpful in order to help them recharge and seek treatment. For those returning to university life, however, challenges may arise due to university culture, highlighting the importance of seeking help and maintaining a positive environment. Universities can help by ensuring provision is in place to help those most in need.

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