by Laura Carman & Nat Abbott
People often don’t believe you’re in crisis; they think this level of crisis is normal because of what they’ve seen before. Sometimes Cambridge can be the cause and accuser of the blame.
This is not a happy piece. As Lemony Snicket once said:
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other books. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.”
People here are really suffering and it is likely more difficult than most could imagine. You can tell me it’s not a Cambridge problem, not an education problem, not an environment problem. It’s just dramatic millennials, just financial stress, it’s what everyone goes through. Is this really the case? As a society, we are bombarded with statistics regarding national and global health and wellbeing and all the ways in which we are failing and being failed, but those who deal with mental health issues are more than just a number. If a brave individual speaks out, we hear the human experience, the social pressure, the doctors that wouldn’t listen, the people who slipped through the system, and they are seen as the unlucky ones. Every mental health statistic is a human experience. And in places like this, those experiences deserve to be privileged.
I have seen friends suffer, completely lost within a foreign health system, struggling with their mental and emotional health for the first time in their lives. Other friends have faced old struggles all over again and fallen into bad habits without a helping hand to pull them out. Ever since I arrived, Cambridge has told me about the wealth of resources for student and staff mental health, to the point where it seemed the university was boasting, like they had something to prove. This information consoled me for about a week before I began to access the services I know that I need. I am sure they are useful for some, and that they are likely oversubscribed come exam season, but I can’t recall a wholly positive experience from anyone I have personally spoken to.
At first glance, nothing (and no-one) is entirely what they seem. It’s just too hard, too much work on top of everything else, to justify my brain, my body, the way I am, the way I look, the things I eat (or do not eat), to someone who might argue back. If my brain can’t even produce enough serotonin or dopamine to function, why the hell does everyone keep telling me that mindfulness will help? As if I haven’t lived in my body and my mind long enough to try every possible strategy. Mental illness can, and does, affect anyone and everyone. Within the Cambridge community there are amazing informal networks set up by and for students to help support one another. Tensions are high, the struggle is real, and if a friend or a stranger confides in you, believe them.
TIPS & TRICKS!
- You cannot ‘catch’ depression, and this should never be used to justify someone staying silent.
- Extracurricular activities are so beneficial, and should not be discouraged. These need to be thought of as part of the university experience rather than an added burden.
- Your mental health is just as important as the grades you get, if not more! Taking the time to care for yourself does not make you a bad student, and it will benefit your studies in the long run.
Please check out CUSU’s Lent Campaign ‘Welfare is Political’ here.
Also see the brilliant article written by CUSU+GU Welfare & Rights Officer, Micha Frazer-Carroll (along with Florence Oulds) in Varsity here.
The Lucy Cav SU also offers welfare information here.
If you were negatively affected by this piece please let us at the Cavendish Chronicle know, and seek assistance from your friends, College Tutor, a counsellor, or your GP. You can also call Nightline for assistance anytime from 7pm – 7am.