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Opinion | Why students should recognise that mental health isn’t so different from physical health

Have you ever come across our saying “We’re here to listen, not lecture”?

Alex, Bristol Nightline

Trigger warning: mentions of mental health

Have you ever come across our saying “We’re here to listen, not lecture”?

Maybe you haven’t, but you may have heard of Bristol Nightline at some point during university.

If you’ve ever wondered why mental health can be such a struggle, you aren’t alone. I know I certainly have, and there isn’t always a straight-forward answer. But one way we can reimagine the stigma around it is by treating mental health with the same respect that you would treat your physical health.

Now, what does that have to do with being at university? In my opinion, for most people it is a new beginning, trying to fit in and discover yourself; which can be a struggle. Let alone leaving home for the first time. As you can see, the list goes on.

There is quite a range of topics students bring up in conversations, especially during the pandemic. Often people may be struggling much more than you’d think.

One of the main issues is the way we think about mental health. Though nowadays there is less stigma attached to it, unfortunately it is still present.

We can fix a cold, but for someone struggling with mental health it can be harder to help

To a certain degree it’s understandable; it’s human nature to hesitate about the unknown.

We can’t pin point exactly what it is or how it works, and poor mental health presents itself in so many different ways that it can be overwhelming.  It’s easier to label someone as ‘different’ than to do something to help them.

But is mental health any different from physical health? Whilst you can see the differences, mental health is still a manifestation of health.

We can fix a cold, but for someone struggling with mental health we can’t just look inside their brain and pick apart their brain cells, so it can be harder to help.

Both a cold and a day where you feel down have got a lot more in common than you think. Mental health has medical manifestations, just like a cold. May it be smiling and laughing with friends or social withdrawal; these are manifestations of one’s wellbeing.

Why not treat mental health with the same respect as physical health and look after oneself and each other? This is where Bristol Nightline tries to play a role.

Though I am not an expert in the field, as part of my medical training I have had the opportunity to come across a wide range of both physical and mental health conditions. I could write a whole essay answering that question, but talking a lot is what probably led to Socrates being poisoned. Instead, I will give you an example to put things in perspective.

Bristol Nightline are here to support you

Someone living with diabetes, a physical long-term health condition, must adhere to specific treatments. If they don’t they will inevitably suffer health implications down the line.

Mental illnesses, despite the stigma surrounding them, are not so different. If the condition is overlooked, just like diabetes, the consequences could be just as serious as for a sufferer of diabetes.

So, why are we not treating mental health with the same respect as we do physical health?

Changing public mentality is a difficult task to do overnight but little steps could be the way forward.

We at Bristol Nightline are here to help support you. All you need to do is reach out to us, after all, we are only one phone call away.

We are a volunteer service, run by students for students. We are open during term time between 8pm and 8am. All we do is listen to anyone who wants to talk, no issue is too big or too small.

Everything stays confidential, anonymous, and we are non-judgemental, so you can tell us as little or as much as you feel comfortable with.

How to get a hold of us? We are on the back of your U-cards.

Featured image: Unsplash / Alexander Andrews

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