World Mental Health Day 2023: I struggled with mental health & I sought help6 October 2023 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
We invited some of our graduating students to share with us a time when things were tricky and how the LSHTM counselling service helped, as well as what World Mental Health Day meant to them.
Tell us about a time you struggled with mental health & how you managed the situation.
Ella from the United Kingdom
After finding Term 1 a bit of a shock to the system, I figured I needed some professional support. I reached out to the LSHTM counselling service for help. I used the service for 9 months as I found juggling the MSc alongside a few personal issues quite challenging. My counsellor was so sweet and really helped me get through a tricky time. I found it was nice to have someone to offload on to who wasn’t a friend or a family member. She also helped me to see things more clearly and to manage both the ups and downs of the year, whether that was the course or outside of LSHTM. I would recommend this service to anyone who is struggling. It’s free and a high quality service! Make use of the LSHTM counselling service if you need it!
Alan from Hong Kong
As a student from Hong Kong, arriving in London was an overwhelming experience. The stark differences in language, culture, transportation, and weather posed significant adjustments for me. Being far away from my family and having only a few friends in this foreign land made me feel isolated and disconnected. In the months of October and November, my mental health took a toll, and I experienced persistent low mood and a loss of interest in everyday activities.
One factor that contributed to my mental health struggles was the reduced level of sunlight during the fall and winter months. This phenomenon, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can affect individuals who are not accustomed to such changes. Recognizing this, I decided to take proactive steps to manage my situation.
Acknowledging the importance of support, I made an effort to connect with fellow students at LSHTM. By attending social events and joining study groups, I gradually formed meaningful friendships that provided comfort and a sense of belonging. Additionally, I sought solace and support by joining a local church in London, where I found a supportive community through Christianity.
During my challenging period, I realised the significance of self-care. I made use of the reading week and some days off to embark on local trips to nearby cities like Birmingham and Exeter. Exploring new places and immersing myself in different environments proved to be therapeutic and helped break the monotony of my daily routine.
Sapna from India
Over the past year, the profound link between our mental and physical well-being has become crystal clear to me, underscoring the vital importance of maintaining a balanced mind and body.
Relocating to an entirely new country, stepping into the independence of living solo, and grappling with serious health issues were just the tip of the iceberg. My inaugural winter in the UK, a stark contrast to the sun-soaked tropics I've always known, added layers of adjustment. Coupled with unfamiliar academic demands, the transition became even more strenuous. Amidst this, personal losses cast long shadows on my heart, and the nostalgia of home weighed heavily on my spirit, highlighting the intricate weave between mental and physical well-being. However, amidst this tumult, LSHTM became my refuge. It stood as a testament that; every cloud has its silver lining.
Anne Jackson, my counsellor, was a remarkable guide with her radiant positivity. Even though I've always considered myself introspective, she brought new insights, helping me navigate through my whirlwind of emotions. She consistently illuminated the silver linings, reminding me of self-care and the need for rejuvenating breaks. Maryirene Ibeto, our Mental Health Advisor, emerged as a relentless ray of hope in my darker days, always bolstering my self-belief. And then there's Elsie Dinha, whose unwavering support, even after regular work hours, made me feel immensely valued.
In addition to these wonderful individuals, I am deeply indebted to my dear close friends from LSHTM and back at home, as well as my loving parents, who have been an unwavering source of strength and encouragement throughout this journey. With them by my side, every dark day became a tad brighter. Their collective effort provided an anchor of care and reassurance, a safety net I genuinely believe I couldn't have done without during my time at LSHTM. Together, these individuals became my lifeline, making my journey manageable and memorable.
Manzilina from Indonesia
Term 2 was the period that I struggled significantly with my mental health. I had an accident during the winter holiday that caused me a lot of stress. Additionally, the exam period before the start of Term 2 and the intense modules I took during the C term added even more pressure and stress.
Prior to this, I had been managing my depression quite well. However, the combination of the demanding coursework and the personal accident exacerbated my mental health challenges. I began to feel extremely anxious and my depression worsened. At one point, I even had suicidal thoughts. It became increasingly difficult to concentrate on my studies, especially with an assignment deadline approaching, and I felt completely overwhelmed. That's when I decided to reach out for help from the counselling service.
The LSHTM counselling service played a pivotal role in my healing journey. To begin, I had an initial assessment with a student counsellor who helped me figure out what I needed and matched me with the right counsellor. After a few weeks, I was assigned a counsellor who I began sessions with.
In the beginning, our sessions were very intense as we delved into some deep-seated childhood trauma that had long been suppressed. Those early weeks were tough, and I found myself crying a lot and struggling with feelings of depression. It got so overwhelming that I had to request a three-day extension for one of my assignments because I couldn't focus on it after completing another one. However, seeking help was the turning point I needed. I'm grateful that now I can regain my focus whenever I need to and engage in lectures without my mind drifting, some of the things I struggled with in the past. This newfound mental clarity has not only improved my academic performance but has also had a positive impact on my relationships with those around me.
Thankfully, things started to get better eventually. It felt as though a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was finally able to regain control of my emotions. I was able to catch up with my studies and, most importantly, submit my assignments on time. This experience marked a significant moment in my journey toward improving my mental health and getting back on track with my academic responsibilities.
Tell us the importance of mental health & what World Mental Day means to you.
Mental Health is everything! To me, I really see mental health as being as important as your physical health. Mental health deserves a lot of attention. It can affect so many parts of your life without you even realising it. It can affect your sleep, relationships and even your physical health. I think World Mental Health Day is a brilliant opportunity to talk about how you’re feeling and to reach out. Over time, this can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. By reducing stigma, more people can share their feelings and get the help they both need and deserve.
As a medical student myself, I understand the significance of mental health and its impact on patients. It is crucial to recognize that health should be viewed from a holistic perspective, encompassing not only physical well-being but also the psychosocial aspects of a person's life. Mental health plays a vital role in overall well-being, influencing how individuals think, feel, and behave.
On World Mental Health Day, it is essential to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote understanding and empathy towards those who may be struggling. By studying at a public health institute like LSHTM, we are provided with a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the complexities of mental health and its intersection with physical health.
Studying abroad can be a transformative and enriching experience, but it is important to acknowledge and address the potential challenges it may pose to mental health. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right strategies and support, you can navigate any mental health challenges that arise during your study abroad journey.
I would like to echo a sentiment shared with me by Maryirene, our Mental Health Advisor: "Remember, nothing is more important than YOU." This year might be intense with a mélange of academic and personal challenges. Yet, always know there's a wealth of support around you, from student services to your fellow peers. Embrace every moment, both within the walls of LSHTM and beyond. Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself and everyone you meet.
Champion mental health together, ensuring it remains front and centre not just on World Mental Health Day, but every single day.
- They also shared their top tips for managing mental wellbeing. Read their tips.
- Find more help and resources on mental health by visiting the Mental Health Foundation.
- Want to find out how other students connect? Speak to your course representatives or student ambassadors.
- Seek confidential support from Student Support Services.