Student mental health ‘failing a generation’

Mental Health Awareness Week

Source: Mental Health Foundation

The inspiration for this post came from the BBC article of the same name, which can be found by clicking here. The article itself suggests that there is a much greater need for mental health services to be available to university students within the UK – with 94% of universities reporting a sharp increase in the number of people trying to access support services.

The aforementioned figures are incredibly disturbing, though should be taken with a pinch of salt. The argument being portrayed within the article is that students are simply becoming more stressed and as a result are seeking support services to a higher extent than in previous years, an argument that certainly may have merit. It should also be considered however, that mental health is continuing to become less of a stigmatised area within health and combined with the increasing efforts of universities, students are becoming more confident in their ability to seek help from these services.

In an ideal world, all students would have a dedicated amount of time in which they could be supported and all academics would have the ability to understand when a student may be struggling or suffering. We do not live in an ideal world sadly, and people do still slip through the cracks. Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint a particular reason as to why this is happening, the majority of reasons seem to indicate that poor communication between universities and wider organisations could be a large issue for those students that may need a higher level of help.

I know from personal experience within the University of Hull, both as a volunteer and service user, that the level of help offered within this particular university is phenomenal and this is a result of several factors: dedication, communication, and never assuming that they’ve perfected the way in which students can be helped. To believe that there is some form of blanket method that will suddenly change the way in which we are able to assist students and the wider community is ridiculous, and this attitude will be the one that enables individuals to further slip through the cracks.

One issue I have been made aware of in my final year at university is the difficulty around the subject of reporting; many students feel unsure of when to take action regarding the mental health of their peers, and are often unaware of the services that are available to both them and the individual who is suffering. Having a strong presence, and treating mental heath as important as the education people are at university to gain is certainly a step that will allow students to be in better hands.

There are a couple of things that are simple however. One of the best things you can do for someone you think is struggling is be polite. “How are you?”. This is possibly one of the powerful phrases you can utilise when you have concerns for someone. If nothing else, you’ll not get a response or will be given a ‘fine thanks’. It’s a small step and isn’t necessarily about gaining information, it’s also about showing that individual you’ve taken time out of your day to think about them. Community is key.

As seen by the banner at the head of this article, you’ll notice that Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up. This is a great time to gain some information about the services that are available to you and your peers. You could be facing issues without even realising it, that’s when information is paramount.

If you are struggling, or you think somebody you know could use a little help then please seek it. I will always encourage people to contact me should they not feel as though they’re able to talk to anybody.

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Rediscovering running

Image result for running

Source: Men’s Running UK

When I was in my mid-teens, I found that I was a pretty good sprinter. I used to love running but never thought I was any good at it until I started competing against other people and realised I wasn’t doing half bad. My love of running wasn’t just confined to sprinting however, I really enjoyed going out for long jogs and just escaping for a little while.

Unfortunately, I got lazy – no excuses, genuinely just laziness and poor time management. My laziness got the better of me and I stopped taking my running seriously for a long time. Something I’ve always regretted I let slip but never really knew how to get back into it.

My friend asked me over the weekend if I’d like to go with her for a run, as she knows that I used to enjoy it and thought I’d be able to help her out. I thought why the hell not, I’m a nice guy and used to be at least somewhat good at running – sure! Luckily for me, my wanting to help my friends always surpasses my current level of laziness and it felt as though my body was just waiting to be asked to feel a little more alive again.

I got into my gym gear and I almost instantly felt awesome. I’ve lost a little weight recently, so I’ve been pretty chuffed with myself whenever I’ve had a chance to try something on I’ve not used in a while. This feeling was great, knowing I was about to have a nice jog around the park with my friend was really exciting me much more than I thought it would and I was thrilled.

The best part about this? It remained fantastic. This wasn’t one of those many times in which we think something is going to be amazing but it’s actually rubbish, oh no! This time, I was jogging around that field feeling on top of the world. I actually felt a little sad when we had to finish up, it was an odd feeling and one that I haven’t felt for way too long.

Being able to rediscover something you love is such an incredible feeling. Most people don’t really feel as though they have anything they’re good at, so being able to find something you feel you’re good at and love doing is just fantastic.

Do video games affect social behaviour?

I normally don’t tend to write academic pieces on my blog, but thought it was high time I actually attempted to put my degree to some use even in a recreational sense.

Video games have long been blamed as a source of society burdens through the glorification of violence, theft and many other crimes. Players are not only given the power to act in such a way but are often encouraged to act in this way to meet particular objectives within a fictional world. The question begging to be answered, do video games affect social behaviour?

One of the largest assumptions about video games is that they are all horrendously violent, a stereotype that is naturally false and this is what people must consider when attempting to understand the consequences of video games. There are thousands upon thousands of video games, ranging from horrendously violent to incredibly child friendly – with the impact of these games being proportionate to the traits these games seem to have (Gentile, et al., 2013). This is naturally a theory that has been tested several times, with studies finding that individuals who play prosocial games are more inclined to help others and increase positive affect (Saleem, et al., 2012).

It should be understood that there are studies that appear to refute this evidence, with some suggesting that violent video games actually decrease aggression in the individuals that play them (Rosenberg, et al., 2013).

Ultimately, there have been a wealth of studies with regards to video games and the impact they may have on those who wish to enjoy them – the majority of which have either been refuted or simply have evidence that supports a range of hypotheses. To those who believe that video games are a negative thing, that’s a fair opinion to have to long as it has at least some justification. To those who feel video games are harmless or positive, that’s great too.

As an individual who has enjoyed video games for the majority of his life, I have never felt an urge to be violent as a result of a violent action in a fictional reality much the same way in which I have never been inspired to help others due to a prosocial game. I believe I am much more than my exposure to video games, and I am capable of volunteering and also getting incredibly wound up because that is simply human nature.

References

Gentile, D. A., Groves, C. & Gentile, J. R., 2013. The general learning mode: Unveiling the learning potential from video games. In: F. C. Blumberg, ed. Learning by playing: Frontiers of video games in education. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 121-142.

Rosenberg, R. S., Baughman, S. L. & Bailenson, J. N., 2013. Virtual superheroes: using superpowers in virtual reality to encourage prosocial behavior. PloS one, 8(1), p. e55003.

Saleem, M., Anderson, C. A. & Gentile, D. A., 2012. Effects of prosocial, neutral, and violent video games on college students’ affect. Aggressive Behavior, 38(4), pp. 263-271.

 

Carving a career from your talents

I’ve been thinking about the future quite a lot recently, as I’ll be ending my studies soon so naturally my thoughts have turned towards what career may be calling to me in the next few months. This sparked further thought; how often do people create a career for themselves?

I mean this in the entrepreneurial sense – seeing a gap in the market for the product or service you’re able to offer and simply making your talent a viable career!

I’d love to hear from people who have managed to accomplish this seemingly daunting feat, as I know there are many people who have these fantastic ideas but lack the confidence or ability to see them though.

Radiant

Radiant

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You folks wanted a post regarding radiance? Look right there, that beautiful glow, the little butterflies above my head, the wonder as I think “why did I think this would be amusing?”. I think the only person to be amused by this is myself, and that’s just grand.

To me, radiance is just as much a state of mine as it is a physical glowing or emanation of light. It’s obviously an incredibly positive feeling, with pregnant women often described as looking radiant or glowing. The body certainly goes through some changes when a woman is pregnant, but it’s the knowing that a child will soon be born and the happiness this makes people feel that really allows that glow to emanate!

I’m often curious as to how someone can achieve this glow. I understand that Snapchat can help with this issue as it has done with me. I feel however, like there is a more long-term solution to this.

If individuals were able to glow and be radiant based upon what good fortune they deserved, they the world would certainly be a much brighter place – if people could see the impact their efforts were having in a physical sense, perhaps more people would try and do a little more for the world.

Betrayed – an alternative view

After I accidentally slipped into a well of deep thinking, I realised that I hadn’t been entirely honest in my previous post about how I have been lucky with regards to not feeling betrayed.

In fact that was unintentionally a massive lie. I feel betrayed on a daily basis, I just looked at it from the wrong perspective.

The biggest betrayal we can face is betrayal from within.

I’m among the millions that have felt betrayed by themselves regularly. Like every betrayal, it can happen every day and we’d still be none the wiser. I’ve looked in the mirror on some days and thought “you’re looking pretty decent today Alex, glad to see some of that work is paying off!” with the next day potentially being “look at yourself Alex, how do you ever hope to be happy when you’re looking like that?”.

Sometimes, I find myself wishing that this only happened once a day. There are plenty of reflective objects in the modern world though; windows, so many windows. Looking at yourself not knowing what you’re doing to think is an odd sensation.

“You’re me, how are you thinking something so negative?”

This doesn’t just apply physically, the mind is capable of playing great tricks. I am lucky in the sense that I am able to be pretty rational. I’m not phased easily and know how to handle most situations calmly and effectively. Sometimes though, it feels like an uppercut in the morning, like you’ve been caught totally off guard and the world is just going to jab, going for the kill.

We laugh at life though. We find ways to beat our demons down. “You think I care if people know my weight? I’ll tell everyone!

The fight is life-long and so many people don’t even think about fighting it, they accept that this is what life is, why fight it?

Being betrayed by yourself constantly is hard, but we can grow wise to it. We can’t predict the next move, but we can learn the moves and understand how they look before they strike.

Play the person, not the game.

Betrayed

Betrayed

Betrayal Quotes

Source: Quote Ambition

Until I started thinking about betrayal, the quote never really occurred to me. Betrayal is horrifying due to the fact that it has to come from people we care about by definition. What a scary concept!

I’m pretty fortunate in the sense that I haven’t been betrayed – as far as I know – but this could be due to the fact that I could count my friends on one hand after having 3 fingers removed.

Betrayal does have an obvious positive connotation in the sense that it has to be assumed that the emotions experienced by both people were genuine, at some point. It wouldn’t be fair to state that all people face betrayal in the same way and because of the same reasons, so we shan’t go down that road!

It could be argued that I have yet to face betrayal as a result of protecting myself from it, with my lack of friends and pretty small family. Who’s to say? All I know is that I am one of the lucky ones. I have seen what being betrayed does to people and it is a horrendous emotion to witness unfolding.

I have to admit, I did feel a little betrayed when my mother consumed all of my chocolates that I had bought for myself – though I wouldn’t attempt to suggest that is the worst betrayal one can face. Albeit close.

People are capable of sucking, and life is capable of sucking as a result of people sucking. I think we’re all going to have to face a bit of betrayal at some point, here’s hoping that you’re in the best place possible to handle it.