Wednesday, 27 January 2016

How To Support A Friend With Depression

"It's not your job to fix them but you can be there, you can listen and you can point them in the direction of positivity and further support."
- Holly Burns

Living with someone who is suffering from depression can be hard. It's hard to watch someone you love get swallowed up. It's hard to watch them lose interest in the things that they love, to struggle with things they would usually find easy and to pull away from the world. To see someone you love crying or being despondent and not knowing what you can do to make it better.

I think the most important thing that I've learnt about supporting someone experiencing depression is that you can't fix them. It's not your job to fix them but you can be there, you can listen and you can point them in the direction of positivity and further support.

From personal experience I know that depression can be isolating and people sometimes push away their loved ones because they might worry about being a burden or the cognitive dissonance of being unconditionally loved is just oddly painful. So it's the little things that really matter. 

Give them time and space and be patient. Give them the opportunity to talk if they need to. Not being angry at them or upset with them if they cancel plans or don't text back and still just being there. Not taking it personally if they push you away. Text messages that are just that, not an invitation, or a question or anything that puts pressure on a response. Just a message to show them that you are thinking about them.

A cup of tea, a good old fashioned hug, a tissue if they've been crying, an open conversation and a gentle reminder that you love them. A 10 minute walk outside can do wonders for someone who is depressed. Depression (and the anxiety that often accompanies it) can often make things feel overwhelming. Simple, low stress ways to get back into life can be helpful. Watch some comedy, look at panda videos on YouTube together, go out for lunch, grab a colouring book or a small all-in-one craft project and be creative. It's often easier to talk if there's a task. Talk about options, how they might seek help and remind them that they're not alone.

At Student Minds we want to give students a simple way to share the positive things they do for their mental health and how they tackle feelings of depression and low mood. A Ripple Tip is a short, quick recommendation of something which works for a student to support their own mental health, which can be used by other students.

Have you experienced depression or low mood? Share your advice through Ripple Tips

We are also looking for blog posts about your experiences of low mood and depression, what it is like to experience it and what advice you may give to others. 

Click the link for other ways to get involved with the Ripple campaign

The Student Minds Look After Your Mate Guide gives further advice about how you can support a friend at university. 

Holly writes more about her experiences on her blog, which you can check out here. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

How to Manage Low Mood During and After Exams

As part of the Ripple Campaign Blog Series, one student shares advice on managing mood through her university studies, both during and after exams.  
                                                                                                                                            - Sophie Rees 

“Your student years are the best years of your life”

Throughout university, we will come across numerous tutors, lecturers and older students that all say the above phrase to us. Although studies can get really tough when it comes to exams, assignments and making choices for the future, it is important to revisit the well-known fact that our peers highlight to us, to help us see our situations more clearly and be proud of what we have achieved to get this far.

As a current second year undergraduate at university, I know that the pressures of work and deadlines can bring people down and create a low mood amongst students. This is a very common feeling at university around examination time in January. Going back to lectures soon after can be a pressured experience.  After everyone has been in exams and handling assignments for a full two weeks; new modules, tasks, cold weather and planning for next year’s study can be unwelcome. Where possible it is important that we turn these hurdles into positive steps that make us the great and intelligent students we are. With this in mind, here are some pieces of advice, my Ripple Tips, that I use for and I hope will be of help to anyone feeling down at this point of the academic year.

During Exams

Find more Ripple Tips here 
Remember to have regular breaks from revision and assignment work as too many solid hours of concentration at once can create a low mood and affect the standard of your work. 

Get plenty of fresh air and don’t stay cooped up in your room revising all day. Even though work is important, your body and your mind will need a new atmosphere to escape from a focused setting.

Eat well. It can be tough to keep up on a good balanced diet this time of the year but warm meals in cold weather, vitamins from fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water, are fantastic habits to have whilst studying. A good diet improves concentration and happiness levels.

After Exams

Forget everything you just sat or handed in, exam time is over. Forgetting about all the work you have just completed for the semester gives you a chance to not only relax but to focus on yourself and reflect on what you have learnt from the semester. Think about what made you proud, what you have improved on and how well you’ve seen yourself through this.

When prepping for next semester, make it interesting and fun. This can be done by making a new timetable and adding lots of colour to it and reading about the modules you will be studying and about what you’ll be learning about. As an English Literature student, I am currently reading some of the books I have to read for next semester and it turns out that they’re pretty good so far. 

Image from source
After looking upon the semester positively, it is time to start a new one in the same manner. Think about what you may have to do differently this semester to improve, what you may keep the same, and what works well for you as you enter new studies.

p.s. I find a cup of tea is a great mood lifter when the world seems to be weighted on my shoulders 

At Student Minds we want to give students a simple way to share the positive things they do for their mental health and how they tackle feelings of depression and low mood. A Ripple Tip is a short, quick recommendation of something which works for a student to support their own mental health, which can be used by other students.

Have you experienced depression or low mood? Share your advice through Ripple Tips

We are also looking for blog posts about your experiences of low mood and depression, what it is like to experience it and what advice you may give to others. 

Click the link for other ways to get involved with the Ripple campaign

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Call for bloggers: We'd love to hear about your experiences of depression & low mood

Ripple is a campaign to increase awareness of depression for students, to give students the ability to understand what depression feels like, to help students speak to friends about their own experiences of depression, and to encourage students to share what small things they can do to help a friend with depression or low mood.

Launching on the 1st February 2016 nationally and in universities all over the UK, Ripple will help students with experiences of depression whilst at university. Find out more information about the campaign here

We're hoping to support the campaign with as many blogs of students' experiences of depression, so that more students can learn about what it's like to live with or around others with depression. You can publish with your name or anonymously, whichever you are comfortable with.

Below are some potential topics for Ripple blogs which we think would really help students:

  • Your own personal experience of depression or periods of low mood
  • Experience supporting a friend/family member with depression
  • Any tips or recommendations you have for others experiencing depression. 
If any of these topics appeal to you, or if you have any questions, please send in a draft blog to

Not a fan of writing? How about video?

Upload a video of your experiences of depression to It Gets Brighter using the 'Ripple' tag, and we'll promote the video throughout the Ripple campaign. It Gets Brighter aim to end the silence surrounding mental health, and empower young people to seek out the help and support that can lead to recovery.  Click here for more info. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Drive to Get the Next Story – The Joys and Pressures of Journalism

George writes about the stresses and strains of working in a competitive industry, and that how bottling up one's mental health issues can only make them worse. 

- George Greenwood

I can easily track the decision I made to become a journalist to a single event. In my last term at Oxford, a good friend had arranged an interview with Joseph Nye, a famed professor of international relations, but was unable to attend. Knowing my geekiness for all things foreign affairs, he asked me to do it instead.

The chance to meet the man was an incredible opportunity. I did not expect a small byline and photo in a student paper to transform my life plans.

But I was hooked, a full blown news junky. The chance for others to listen to my views, and above all the chance to earn my crust as a teller of stories, was something I could not get out of my head.
Yet, I have always struggled with mental health. I was rather badly bullied at my secondary school. As with many private schools, this was brushed under the carpet. I vowed to leave the school at 16, and I did, for the local FE college, much to my betterment.

This experience has had two effects upon me. On the one hand, it has been a powerful driver to work however hard it takes to succeed, to make those horrific years worth it. They drove me to Oxford, to The London School of Economics, and they have driven me into a position, if very junior and causal, at The Times at age 22.

However, such drive also has a much darker side, which has not matched well with my chosen career path. It has also instilled strong feelings of self-doubt, which I sometimes struggle to deal with under pressure. If I missed out on a story, lost a contact, or didn’t get an article published, I would suffer from crippling self-hatred. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t I work that little bit harder. Why was I such a failure? Worse, even if I did succeed, getting a good byline, or a great job opportunity, the high lasted minutes. I could not be happy about my success for more than a few moments. It would never be enough. There would always be someone with a better story, a better job, a better grade in their exams or more of a success at my age. Therefore, by my skewed logic, I would always be a failure.

Worse than this, the competitiveness of the industry, made me refuse to admit this to myself that issues had returned. I had to be strong, stronger and better than the young journalists around me, to buck up, to make up with my failure with another article, another byline or another job opportunity, to work longer hours.

It took a very simple moment to bring myself to return to the doctor. I had been joking with a girl sitting next to me about getting frustrated with the terrible computers in the university journalism department. I had been fuming that they were refusing to turn on. But she remarked to me, once I had finally managed to make the damn thing work: “You still don’t seem very happy.”

I was shaken that it had been so simple see straight through my guards. I sought help the next day.

Journalism rightly has a reputation as being a stressful job. As purveyors of news, we often report on loss, pain and tragedy as well as moments of celebration. Young journalists, in the digital age more than even, face the fear of uncertain employment, as well as the age old fear of rejection, with the steady repetition of having our stories knocked back by news desks before we eventually succeed.

To try to be too hard skinned about this, I have learned is a mistake.  To bottle up such feelings, as men such as myself are especially want to do, only builds up into larger problems.

When we need help, we need to ask for it. The challenge, however, is to convince those who experience mental health difficulties that the whole world will not come crashing down if they seek support.

Tips on Managing Anxiety & Panic Attacks at University

 Experiencing anxiety at university can be challenging; but here are some techniques & support that one student used to help manage her panic attacks and worrying thoughts.

Ever been on your way to school, work, or university and suddenly felt your heart beating so fast that you’ve felt like it was going to jump out of your chest, or faint enough that you feel like you are going to collapse any minute or so hot that you feel like you are burning on the inside?  A few months ago, this is how I felt and it was taking over my life. This is the story of someone who suffers with anxiety.

If you’ve ever felt like this, please realise that there is hope and things will get better. I am now living life free of panic attacks and I hope I can help you to do the same.

My panic attacks started very suddenly when I woke up one night with a stomach cramp and instantly I felt a surge of worry and fell into a state of shock. My heart was racing, my face went pale, I felt faint and I was very scared as the panic attack lasted a long time, I went to get help.  After this, the next few months were a struggle and I soon began to think that I would have to take a year out of studies, but things did get better eventually.

Here are some of the things that have helped me to manage my anxiety:

Sleep  - Leading up my first panic attack, I had many deadlines for coursework at university and so was very overworked and fatigued. I felt this was the major cause of my panic attacks and I cannot stress enough how important getting enough sleep is when it comes to reducing anxiety. Meditation and calm yoga before bedtime helped me wind down after a long day and get the sleep that I needed. I’d also found it helpful to play a YouTube video or an audio book where I would concentrate on the voices, distracting my mind from anxious thoughts and helping me sleep.

Exercise - I know this will sound horrible but the more panic attacks I experienced the more familiar I was with them and I soon began to find ways of managing them. One of the best ways I managed my panic attacks was going for walks and other forms of gentle exercise. Getting some fresh air and distracting my mind from the panic attack helped to decrease my heart rate and the rest of the symptoms diminished too. But if you are in a place where you cannot go for a walk, for instance on the tube, I found that distracting myself by checking my Facebook or Twitter or listening to calming music definitely helped.

Coping in lectures - One of the worst places to get a panic attack for me was during lectures. To distract myself from worrying thoughts, I would leave a page in my notebook for doodling. If I felt I couldn't handle sitting through a whole lecture then I would sit at the back near the door just in case I wanted to leave and get some fresh air. Telling myself that I was in no danger and saying things like, ‘so what if I have a panic attack I didn't die the first time and I won’t die now’ helped me stop my anxious thoughts from spiralling out of control. You've got to show your brain who is in charge! ;)

Telling your uni - Letting your personal tutor at university know about what you’re going through will definitely help with coping with anxiety and your studies. Whether you would like extra time for deadlines or exams or be referred to an on-campus counsellor, your personal tutor or a Mental Health Adviser can help you to explore these options.

Seek support - Talk to your GP and discuss your options, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, self-help books, counselling or medication. Self help books helped me to manage my anxiety and learn more about it.  Choose whichever you feel most comfortable with.

Having down time  - where you can do something relaxing like play an instrument, draw, sing or phone a friend will help to keep your anxiety levels down.

Talk  to a friend - It is always good to share what’s on your mind because a problem shared is a problem halved. Never suffer alone – keep your friends and family close.

Although you may feel as if your anxious thoughts are taking control, you can overcome this and soon be in control. One thing I want to express is that you are not alone and there is help for you out there – you can overcome this obstacle; I believe in you!

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Supporting a friend? Check out our Look After Your Mate guide.