Live It Up!- UCC Express, February 2010

UCC’s Mental Health Policy was outlined on January 15th; it’s time for a re-evaluation of our attitudes and behaviours.

We all get down every now and then. Stress is a big part of life; you don’t have those 4000 essays done and your apartment is cold. Your part time job is only aiding the demon Pressure, but you can’t give it up because it pays for your day to day college life (the occasional roll and a lot of skimping on necessities like pens and decent food). And then things really hit the fan: you have everything ready to go, and you’re in the library and for some technological reason that’s way beyond your comprehension, the printer breaks and you’ve nothing to hand up and the marks are floating out the window.

We’ve all been there. That terrible sick feeling in your stomach followed by the incandescent rage that things never work for you when you most need them to. There are occasional tears and occasional tantrums. And the following day you wake up even less enthused; perhaps because of a hangover. It sounds soft, but that’s so not good for your head or your body. It’s neither healthy nor progressive- and the world has enough problems without you feeling bad to top it all off.

See here’s the thing. Sometimes the best thing to do is sit down with a cup of tea and a book. Avoid the news, avoid the papers and avoid the college work. Talking to your roommate, calling an old friend from school or even phoning your sister for a chat will honestly make things feel better. We’re all in the same position; everyone is stressed and strained because that’s life.

Alcoholism is a tentative talking point here. I’m not here to talk about the physical stuff. We know about the liver damage and the sexual dysfunction. Psychosis, confusion and panic attacks are not uncommon. Depressive episodes go hand in hand with too much drinking. Not to mind the possibilities for drunk driving and date raping- both of which carry huge consequences. If you have trouble sleeping and if you feel unhappy, if you’re the butt of everyone’s jokes for your drunken antics and if you feel less ambitious and less focused, or if you find your money is being poured into pubs and clubs, it might be time to rethink the drink and cut down. I’m not saying cut off completely; I’m saying that taking some time out might be just what the doctor ordered.

Mental health problems are becoming more common now- but generally we prefer not to talk about it. It frightens us to see sadness at its core. But we really shouldn’t ignore it. It’s unimaginable to consider that there are those of us who suffer so much, but the truth is on the sheet. When the HSE reported on mental health, they alluded to the fact that 62% of people would not want anyone to know if they had mental health issues.

Just over one in ten people asked about mental issues reported having experience with mental problems- and women reported as being the more affected. This University has over 18,000 full time students. Imagine that 1,800 of those are currently in a battle we might know nothing about. Depression is one of the biggies. Feeling sadness or hopelessness consistently, having difficulty with daytime activities and problems concentrating, as well as changes in basic functions like eating and sleeping are some of the symptoms.

Anybody who recognises the symptoms should talk to a doctor or a friend- and try to work it out. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. The world is a cruel son of a bitch sometimes, and there are times when we all feel overburdened and underwhelmed. Nobody should feel bullied, harassed or humiliated about their problems; if anything they should feel all the more supported and appreciated. We all get caught up in the independence of college, but make a call home every now and then.

Chat to your friends, make dates outside of the pub and go to society events and club meetings. No need to overdo it, but a bit of exercise and some hobbies can do all the good in the world. If you find yourself feeling out of your depth, stressed and alone, make a call to someone who can help. If there’s nobody at home, phone the Samaritans, Aware or Niteline. Take the day off and go get some retail therapy. Go outside for a walk in the air, rain or shine. Sometimes the smallest things can put everything into perspective and make you feel way better. Take care of you, and take care of your friends.

Life is bigger than stress and strain: live it up, not down.