University is a wonderful time. There is the potential to make lasting friendships, study and qualify in a subject you are passionate about, be independent, move away from home and a chance to try new things and get a real sense of who you are. The sense of freedom can be amazing.
The other side of the coin is that there can be a variety of challenges ahead – socially, academically and economically.
Even before you start university, the pressures can seem huge – competition for university places, choosing the right course, can lead to exam related stress and general worries about the future.
Stepping into university life can be daunting for many – being suddenly away from home, family and friends. The normal routine is gone.
Moving to a big city or a strange town is exciting but can be overwhelming too.
Peer pressure can be immense and often this can start in Fresher’s week where there is pressure to make new friends, join clubs and have a great and full social life.
It can easily appear as if everyone is making friends and for those who aren’t quite as outgoing as others, feelings of loneliness and isolation can grow.
Academically, university is a new concept. Getting used to new ways of learning, taking ownership for progress, meeting deadlines, keeping up with course-work, the sheer volume of reading can be a challenge.
Economically there is more pressure than ever as families stretch to help put loved ones through university. Many more students are balancing academic life with jobs. This in itself can be difficult with the struggle to do well in studies and jobs. Many feel torn between the two and this can lead to feelings of anxiety.
As well as immediate financial worries, students now report worrying about future employability – will there be a job out there? Have I got the right skills?
Some students may have additional concerns, for example international students. Being in a new country, a different culture with different teaching methods, language barriers can all add to students feeling pressurised to do well and prove themselves.
More and more students with special needs are now going to university and settling in to university life can be more challenging or include different challenges. In my work with students with differing needs I have been overwhelmed by the determination to get on and do well despite the fact that they may have to work on obtaining extra things such as mobility assistance, support worker help, assistive equipment etc. This all takes time to put in place correctly and I see how organised students have to be.
Mature students may have different issues such as juggling family commitments, childcare issues, getting used to a reduced household income due to a reduction in working hours to fit in study etc.
Students can encounter a variety of issues – anxiety, alcohol/drug dependence, bullying, depression, a lack of confidence, anger management, time management, self harm, eating disorders, relationship issues.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists produced a report, “Mental Health of Students in Higher Education” in 2011. This was in recognition of the diverse and complex issues students can face due to the increased student population from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and also the current economic climate and its associated affects. Many recommendations/observations have been put forward, one being the need to recognise how important it now is for higher education and N.H.S services to work in collaboration.
Universities are committed to student retention and completion and work hard to help students face challenges and nurture their health and wellbeing. Counselling sessions are offered in a confidential environment and courses and workshops are often available. Some also offer online self help for those unsure about counselling – all to enhance the student experience.
For those who do not want to access their university counselling service, many seek help and advice from their G.P or prefer to find a Counsellor privately to work through issues in a safe environment. All credible Counsellors are members of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and work to the BACP ethical framework – Ethics for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
So – the great news is that there are many places to go to get support – so please don’t feel you are alone if you are experiencing or know anyone who is experiencing any of these issues. Taking the first step in asking for help is your bravest step and will immediately start your journey of recovery/getting back on track!
There has undoubtedly been a huge increase in people going for counselling in the last forty years or so.
We now seek therapy in a variety of ways – counselling, CBT, self help books, DVDs and online programmes, as we look to work through issues or go in new directions.
Many of us are finding that modern life is full of constant challenges. Our lives are busier than ever before and we are often juggling several issues such as work, health issues, change in family circumstances, bereavement, multiple demands on our time.
The current economic climate means we are working longer hours either in fear of losing our jobs or through covering roles for people who have unfortunately already have. Change in the workplace is ongoing and often immediate.
The pressure to appear in control is huge. Many do not want to talk about issues to colleagues, friends and even family for fear of being judged as not being able to cope.
As a result more and more of us are reporting feelings of stress, anxiety and depression as well as sleep disturbances.
N.H.S statistics indicate that 6.1 million people suffer from anxiety and depression in England alone.
The N.H.S Information Centre for Health and Social Care, in its 2011 Survey of Attitudes to Mental Illness found that 77% of us now agree that ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ however 43% of us ‘would not feel comfortable talking to their employer about their mental health’. 88% of women (79% of men) felt that therapy such as counselling is an effective treatment for issues such as depression, stress and anxiety.
The Department of Health outlined the government’s commitment to talking therapy in “Talking Therapies a Four Year Plan of Action” which started in April 2011. Its aim is to give better access to therapy with more choice. It clearly recognises the effect of events such as the economic climate on us all.
We are now seeking counselling for a variety of reasons:
Current or past life events – bereavement, redundancy, separation, abuse, loneliness, bullying, financial and work issues.
The need to explore feelings and develop further – things are ‘not quite right’, we feel down, unsettled, anxious and there’s a nagging feeling that there is more to life.
To explore a specific issue – a lack of confidence, stress management, stopping smoking, anger management.
There is now more transparency with regards to accessing therapy. Famous people such as Stephen Fry, David Bowie, and Patrick J Kennedy to name but a few have spoken freely about issues they have dealt with. This has opened up debates and increased awareness about the counselling process. Seeking counselling is no longer taboo.
Due to demand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to access support via the N.H.S due to waiting lists. People report having to wait for many months to get the support they need. Many prefer to seek counselling privately as they do not want details on their medical records.
Deciding who to work with is very important. Clients need to know who to trust and need to feel comfortable with their Counsellor in order to go forward – after all, highly emotive, confidential issues are often discussed. Most ethical Counsellors will offer an initial consultation, this gives you a chance to meet and find out how the Counsellor works and how they can help you.
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the umbrella organisation for counselling and psychotherapy and Counsellors who are members work to a strict ethical code of conduct. You can be assured that any BACP member has been through appropriate accredited training and extensive placement experience.
Whatever background we are from – whatever age, gender, culture etc, deep down we all share common concerns and worries. Counselling is a great way to get support within a non judgmental, safe environment.
As a Counsellor, it is an honour to be part of clients’ recovery and journeys forward and it is very encouraging that talking therapy is now recognised as a very credible method to aid recovery.
On a positive note, what is really amazing are the resources we all have deep down to go forward and grow. Facilitating a solution via counselling is very satisfying to client and Counsellor.