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University Mental Health Day: Finding the balance for your wellbeing

For University Mental Health Day, Drew shares how he found the balance of the student party culture and looking after his wellbeing.

For University Mental Health Day, peer recovery practitioner Drew shared his story...

Like a lot of people, I anticipated university as a time for new beginnings, for making new friends, for learning about the world and learning about myself. I had seriously struggled with my mental health before I made the decision to go to uni at the age of 22.

I spent much of my teenage years and early 20’s on a mission to have as much ‘fun’ as possible, with not much direction or purpose outside of this drug-fuelled pursuit. Inevitably this ended badly, and I experienced a lengthy drug-induced psychosis at the age of 19, followed by a couple of years of depression and anxiety. For me, university was an opportunity to start afresh.

Starting afresh however, was no smooth journey. At 22 and wanting to put my party years behind me, I found that university was a place where a fair few people were on a similar mission to which I was on - to have as much fun as possible. Suddenly, in the surroundings of student halls, cheap club nights, and a novel sense of freedom, taking drugs and binge drinking was now the norm – almost a rite of passage.

In my first year, I managed to find a balance. I was disciplined in my studies and socialised in several ways that didn’t revolve around drinking and drugs. It was in my second year where things began to fall apart. Swept up in the excitement of making new friends, and surrounded by drug use and partying, I suddenly began to make bad decisions.

I begun smoking the joints that were being passed around and taking pills at the festivals; whether I truly wanted to or not seemed irrelevant, it was what seemingly everybody was now doing. My mental health began to deteriorate very quickly. I began to isolate myself and smoke a lot of weed. I felt anxious, stressed, and unable to manage the pressures of studying, socialising, and taking care of myself. Approaching the end of the first term of my second year, I had another breakdown, and needed to temporarily withdraw from university.

My friends were very supportive of me, once I told them about what was going on - perhaps I could have avoided this spiral downward if I had reached out sooner and been more open about my past struggles with mental health. Thankfully however, I came back far stronger than before. I re-took my second year. I got involved in some of the societies at university, began a lot of extra-curricular voluntary work, and deepened my friendships in the right ways. I made a commitment to take care of my wellbeing, doing things that were good for me. My willingness to make better choices on my return led me to win the Sociology Prize Award for outstanding academic achievement.

The achievements and commitment to my wellbeing made it all worthwhile, and I would not be who or where I am today without that journey. In my experience, the partying culture of a lot of universities can be good fun, but it comes with a risk if you do not take care of yourself or find a balance. For me personally, no number of nights out, drugs, or reckless fun can outweigh the sense of accomplishment you feel by taking responsibility for your mental health, making good decisions, and doing what is best for you.

Are you in need of mental health and wellbeing support while at University? Our Peer Support teams and Wellbeing Centres could be for you. See Our Services here.

If you are in need of support with addiction, or substance abuse, find more information here:

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