Instagram Has Teamed Up With Mental Health Charities For This Uni Campaign
Mental health charities The Mix and CALM are using Instagram influencers to help students starting uni cope with the change.
When a huge bunch of same-age students start living away from home for the first time, there’s deffo a LOT of fun to be had. But uni isn’t always the glorified three-year party it’s made out to be. There’s a lot of pressure too, and it can take its toll on students’ mental health. In fact, young people’s mental health charity The Mix reported a 160% increase in people asking for help about university last year, just after Freshers’ Week.
Here are seven celebs who got real AF about coping with a mental illness...
Instagram has joined up with both The Mix and CALM to create their second #GramFam Instazine to try and support students as they embark on the world of change that is starting university. The Instazine (which is posted on the mental health charities' Insta pages) contains advice and top tips from a load of Instagram influencers like Lucy Spraggan (@lspraggan), Grace Beverley (@gracefitUK) and Ashleigh Ponder (@balancednotclean) all about how to deal with the transition.
We caught up with some of the zine’s contributors – fitness duo Hannah and Emily of @twicethehealth, gaming blogger Tacita French (@freeplayfrenchie) and vlogger Jack Edwards (@jackbenedwards) to find out why they wanted to support the campaign, and how they coped with any difficulties uni threw their way.
Why did you want to get involved with the zine?
Tacita: I wanted to get involved because it's such an important topic! I've been to university and it can be a scary time for some. You've moved out, you're on your own and suddenly it's all down to you. That's a lot of pressure to take on in a short space of time. The zine is a great way to promote mental wellbeing and that it's just as important as being physically healthy.
Jack: The general perception of university and, in particular, freshers' week, is one of crazy nights out, meeting hundreds of new people, and having ‘the time of your life’. However, that’s just not the reality. Moving to uni can be all of those things, but it’s also a huge lifestyle change and a bit of a culture shock, which isn’t always easy to adapt to. I think it’s time we put the focus back on our mental health as students… making sure we’re actually doing okay. The insta-zine encompasses that perfectly, emphasising the need to look after ourselves.
Hannah and Emily: We think it’s an important discussion that should be had with students. University can be an incredible stressful time for many, and dealing with that can be tricky. Running was our way of getting headspace, which is key when swamped with essays and endless research. We think students need to be more open to understanding mental health to help both themselves and peers.
How did you come up with your idea for content?
Tacita: I'm usually talking about my favourite games of the month or the year on my Instagram, but co-op games are just a great way to get to know your new roommates. It's relaxing, they're fun and a great conversation starter!
Jack: I wanted to create some personal videos speaking from experience about how to survive freshers' week. It was really important to me to find a balance between light-hearted tips, encouraging freshers to get involved as much as possible and introduce themselves to new people, and serious reminders about looking after your mental health. Because that’s what university is… it’s life! It’s the ups and the downs, and everything in between. I really wanted to focus on a mixture of everything, and give a holistic, yet concise, insight into surviving freshers' week.
Hannah and Emily: It was simple, it was the truth. Running is not only what helped us spend our time out right, it’s what built the wonderful friendship that today stands as Twice The Health.
Can you tell us about your uni experience and how the transition into uni affected your mental health?
Tacita: I consider my decision to remain living at home a wise one, because it worked for me and I was lucky in that situation. I know for some students they either can't stay at home, or they just can't wait to leave! So I didn't have the stress of rent or bills to pay, but I could clearly see how it affected my friends. Not only that, but you all feel the pressure to perform and keep your grades up. University is big jump from A-Levels, mentally as well as in real life!
Jack: The night before uni I had a real wobble and really didn’t want to go. The uni I went to wasn’t my initial first choice, and I was still sceptical about whether I’d like it or whether the people there would be ‘my people’. I was moving 350 miles from my family home (and my dog) and I was petrified. Fortunately for me, everything worked out really well and I settled very quickly - I now can’t imagine myself anywhere else! However, even though I love it, it’s TOTALLY natural to still have days where you feel completely out of your depth. It’s all about finding the balance and making sure you check in on yourself and your friends regularly to make sure everyone thrives.
Hannah and Emily: We were both very lucky and had an incredible university experience. Like every student, we had deadline stress and sometimes struggled with being overwhelmed around dissertations and lengthy essays, but keeping a cool head and a pair of trainers nearby meant we managed to deal with all of the above in the best way we felt possible!
What kind of things did you struggle most with during your time at uni?
Tacita: For me, I struggled most with the idea of missing out since I didn't live on campus. I couldn't stay out late because I had a half an hour train ride back home. But I think for most students it can be finding the balance between work and play, especially when your parents aren't around to tell you to start your essay!
Jack: I found that I put a lot of pressure on myself to work non-stop. The thing is, when you live in halls of residence, it feels as though you never actually ‘leave’ university. Even when you go back to your bedroom, you’re still at uni. This made me feel at times that I was never doing enough work and that everyone else was so much more intelligent and studious than myself. As a result of this stress, I completely burnt myself out and wore myself down.
Hannah and Emily: For Emily it was the excess workload. Being someone who doesn’t work particularly well past 5pm, and also being someone who enjoys an abundance of extra curricular activities meant time pressures were a constant battle. For Hannah it was quite the opposite. The temptation of nights out and lengthy brunches was all too much and often work took a backseat, meaning late laptop nights were a regular occurrence. Thankfully work ethic has since improved!!
How did you find support?
Tacita: I'm lucky in that I have a very close family and when you're studying at home you don't worry about the money as much, which was a huge help. But when I was feeling down I knew there was always Union support available, and my friends and tutors.
Jack: I think it was just remembering that we’re all human, but we’re also different humans. We all study differently. We all cope differently. Surrounding myself with an amazing group of friends created the best support system I could ever ask for, and we all saw each other through it. By the same token, check in on your mates as much as possible - even if it doesn’t always look like it, they’ll need it too.
Hannah and Emily: We both struggle to reach out for support, we like to deal with problems ourselves. Although the support available at university was incredible, it’s not something either of us utilised all that much.
Do you have advice you would share with freshers on how to look after themselves?
Tacita: Try not to take it all too seriously. It's important you study and get your essays in etc, but this should be a fun time in your life, and one you might not experience again. Also really familiarise yourself with the Students' Union. I wish I'd run for president when I was at uni! When it comes to mental health, take the time out to relax and manage your workload. Find out if you work best in the mornings or evenings!
Jack: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to absolutely LOVE your first day, your first week, your first term, or even your first year. University is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Take your time to settle and make sure you’re comfortable and the good days will come! You’ll find YOUR people, even if it takes some time. Join the clubs and societies you’re interested in and chat to as many people as possible, and eventually you’ll find people exactly on your wavelength.
Hannah and Emily: Keep a cool head, and find an activity or club that allows you to do that. From surfing to sewing, there’s activities to partake in a plenty that help you switch off and step away from the stresses of deadlines and dissertations. Also, surround yourself with good people. Often a cosy chat over a cuppa and cake is all it takes to realise it’s not all that bad.
How do you deal with loneliness?
Tacita: In terms of feeling that way at university, I would say getting to know the Student's Union, particularly your VP representing student wellbeing would be a good shout. The VPs and president are usually really friendly and remember, their job is to make sure you have a good student experience! I'd also really recommend joining some societies if you're living on campus!
Hannah and Emily: Lucky for us we have each other, so we don't often feel alone. If we do, best thing to do is accept it and admit it and allow yourself to reach out to someone. There’s no shame in wanting company!
How do you make sure social media is something that is positive for your mental health?
Tacita: First and foremost you have to cut out the comparing, just don't do it. It's not doing you any good, and ultimately someone else's life might look amazing but you don't know their reality. Second, realise that everything on social media is filtered and created for likes. I think after you really understand those two things you can enjoy it however you like! I use it to share my love of gaming and talk to my community that I won't always find in real life! (Gamers are usually introverted creatures!)
Jack: Comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can ever do. Always focus on yourself… everyone is on their own individual journey and everyone works differently. Social media is always over-saturated with success stories and sometimes it’s suffocating. Just keep working on yourself and focus on your achievements and goals.
Hannah and Emily: We follow people who make us feel good. There’s nothing more to it! Engage with people who inspire you to be the best version of you, not a copycat version of someone else!
Is it ok to be sad sometimes?
Tacita: Of course! I've had loads of days when the world just seems a little bit too much and all I want to do is lock myself away, build a duvet nest and play video games. I think it's natural, especially when you start uni. As long as you recognise the distinction between a couple of off days and a habit, then take the time you need to look after yourself. Self-care is very important!
Jack: YES! It’s SO okay to be sad sometimes. In fact, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t! Rather than trying to ignore or cover up your bad days, focus on them the most and take the time to make sure that you’re doing alright.
Hannah and Emily: Of course! Sadness is an emotion we all suffer, we’re human after all. There’s been moments in the six years of our friendship where we’ve cried for no other reason than we’ve just felt a bit down and usually after letting it all out it’s ok. Saying this, if it’s an emotion you struggle with regularly that consistently negatively effects relationships and daily life, we advise you visit a professional.
The Mix has loads of expert information if you or someone you know is worried about heading off to university. You can call The Mix's helpline on 0808 808 4994 or speak to one of the team via webchat.
If you're struggling to cope with exam results period, or anything else for that matter – the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) provides a free, confidential helpline (0800 58 58 58), and webchat open every day from 5pm - midnight. There's also loads of inspiring, helpful and hilarious content on their site.