Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mental Health Over the Summer: Emily's Experience

Emily joins the 'Mental Health Over the Summer' blogging series and shares her own story about her summer experiences with mental health difficulties.

- Emily

What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

To help with my mental health over the summer, I make sure that I always spend some time each day doing something that I am passionate about, which is writing. The summer is good for this because I can take a notebook into the garden,  and sit in the sun and do some writing  . This summer however, for me, has been really different. Earlier this year, I gained a qualification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and I’ve had the chance to teach both in Italy and in the UK. These experiences have been really positive for my mental health.

What do you like to do during the summer?

During the summer, I like to spend lots of time writing. The summer is usually the time that I increase my Karate training too. This summer, I have enjoyed teaching English in Italy and in the UK, which has been a really enjoyable and confidence boosting experience for me.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

I find the summer hard because I have too much time to think about and dwell on things. It is also hard because all of my friends live in different areas of the country and it’s difficult to see them very regularly, which. often leads to me feeling lonely.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer, compared to when you’re at university?

Before this summer, I have found my mental health to take a dip during the summer holidays because I’m generally on my own and have too much time to think and to worry about everything. When I’m at University, I’m always busy with work and therefore I have less time to worry about things and more distractions. I also have lots of friends at University so it’s a lot easier to see people while I am there, compared to when I am at home during the summer.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

For students who struggle with their mental health during the summer, I would recommend using the time to focus on hobbies or even to start something new, for example, volunteering or an online course or learning a language . It is also good to keep in touch with University friends via social media or arrange to meet up.

Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at

My name is Emily (Em); I am currently studying Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting at Swansea University. I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have experienced depression and anxiety, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mental Health Over the Summer: Sophie’s Experience

Sophie kicks off the ‘Mental Health Over the Summer’ blog series by sharing her story about her summer experiences with a mental health issue.

-Sophie Edwards

Hey, I’m Sophie and I am a sub-editor of the Student Minds Blog. I’ve been a blogger for four years now and have also recently started my own YouTube channel where I share my experiences of mental health, university and life in general! I usually share my mental health story when I am at university and (understandably) extremely stressed. However, I rarely talk about my mental health during the summer, as this should be a time when I relax. However, mental health issues don’t rest, even when you’re meant to. This is why this blog series is so important: by raising more awareness, we can help students who struggle during the summer.

What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

Whenever I am having a particularly down day, I try to give myself something to do. I find it hard during the summer because I have gone from having something to do 24/7 at university to doing nothing, and it leaves me feeling worthless. To keep my mind active, I like to blog and make YouTube videos; I also like to do some painting, or to see loved ones. Spending time on creativity keeps my mind active and stops me from overthinking and worsening my mental health.

What do you like to do during the summer?

During the summer, I try my best to see my friends, even though we are all busy working or on holiday. I like to spend days with my boyfriend by either going on days out in London, or by simply chilling in bed with Netflix. Simple things like this make me feel truly happy and help me wind down after a stressful year at university.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health during the summer?

My main piece of advice is to keep your mind and body active. Last summer when I was told I had social anxiety and depression, I got into exercise. It balanced the chemicals in my brain and made me feel a lot healthier mentally and physically. Keeping your mind active is also so important. Of course, you need to rest after a long and stressful year at university. However, a complete wind-down can lead to an extreme feeling of emptiness, if you struggle with such thoughts to begin with. This also makes it harder to get back into university once summer is over. Start a blog, make YouTube videos, find a new hobby, write for Student Minds! Doing little things like this can help you wind down without leading you to completely switch off and go numb.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

I struggle to find the motivation to start the day. When I have no job or any responsibilities, I technically have no reason to get out of bed unless I have something planned. I find myself spending full days in bed, forgetting to eat a proper meal or drink enough throughout the day. I don’t bother to shower and I just spend the whole day either on my laptop or my phone. Sometimes we need days like this, but I know that truthfully, I feel even worse after.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

I find that I ‘accept’ my mental health issues when I’m at university because it is usually down to the workload and stress. However, when it’s summer, I struggle to come to terms with my mental health issues as I feel I shouldn’t be struggling. But we all know that mental health issue don’t take summer holidays, which is why this series is so important. We need to raise awareness about students’ mental health and the support they can get over the summer if it is needed.

Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at

Hi, I’m Sophie and I’m a student at the University of Greenwich studying Advertising and Marketing Communications. I am going into my 3rd year of university in September and I have struggled with my mental health up until this point. In the Summer of 2016, at the end of my 1st year of university I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. It was only when I discovered Student Minds that I felt less alone and knew I wasn’t the only student struggling. I hope by working with Student Minds I can support other students experiencing the same struggles as me and raise awareness about the help that is out there!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Assumptions and Acceptance

Using her own experience Rachael shows how a bad start to university doesn't have to put you off university education. 

-Rachael Johnston

My welcome to higher education wasn't all that great to begin with. I was studying a counselling degree with the hope to work in early intervention programs for children who were struggling emotionally.  I was honest about having Anorexia & Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), however, when it came to placement year I was pulled into a room and was told I would be a danger to myself and others!

The tutors had googled BPD and basically just read the bad stuff related to it. I was heartbroken, especially with it coming from my tutors who were counsellors. I'd worked so hard and was fully aware I would need to be conscious of my own state of mind during the placement and in the profession.

While this was happening, I had given a talk about my journey to a group of university students on a Childhood & Youth Professional Studies course. I explained the situation I was in and explained the direction I wanted to head in. There and then the lecturer told me about their course and the help on offer through disability support.

Within 2 weeks student finance had been sorted and my disabled student allowance (DSA). Right from the start, the support I recieved was amazing. I had an independent learning plan which was sent to my tutors and I had a copy. It explained all my needs and any behaviours to watch out for (which I had agreed to) - that I may just leave the lecture as often I just need to walk round to get myself back focused.

There was no pressure to read my marks straight away from assignments and if I was struggling it was okay. There was no judgement. Even today as I enter my final year, it's still the same.

The other year I received a phone call from the course lead as I'd taken an overdose just after we broke up for summer - there was no judgement and no well "uni isn't for you" which I had had in the past.

My support plan is followed to the letter (as it should be) and although I've had a couple of extensions for my assignments due to declines in my health, it's never been an issue.

My greatest support for my uni support is my mentor, who is funded through my DSA. I've built up a trusting relationship with her and she keeps everyone updated, with my permission. I struggle with going into the library to get books so she's worked with me to build up the courage to do it. I honestly wonder if I would have carried on with my course at times if it wasn't for the fact I have her to rant and ramble to, she goes above and beyond and I really appreciate it.

I recently had a matter around student finance and phoned/emailed my lead tutor in a panic, she helped to resolve the matter and calmed me down, she knew the matter would be sorted but didn’t discredit my racing thoughts and feelings, as she knew this would just make my BPD spiral.

University is often a bumpy journey. I've had to adjust to new situations and overcome darker days. I feel very humbled that I have joined a university that has accepted and encouraged me, and one that has taken the time to understand that my mental health is only a small part of the 26 year old that is looking forward to graduating in 2018.

Feeling low? Find local support at your university, here. Find further information, support and advice on the Student Minds website.

Hi, I'm Rachael. I'm currently studying Childhood and Youth Professional Studies at the University of Chester and wanted to write for Student Minds as I have Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder and wanted to show that having mental health issues doesn't have to stop you from studying.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Education: mental health’s preventative medicine

How a lack of education delayed my diagnosis of bipolar disorder

- Edward Huntly

In February, I was diagnosed with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Affective Disorder, a condition which causes me to cycle between the extremities of mood. It was news I didn’t fully understand, and in the four months since, I’ve been forced to educate myself on an illness which will be with me for life.
In my own way, I’d learnt to understand the rhythms of my mental health from an early age, experiencing my first bout of depression aged fifteen. For years, these heavy, suffocating states made regular appearances; they would occur three or four times a year, for weeks or months at a time.

At this point, I don’t think I’d even come across the word ‘bipolar’ yet, and I had a very narrow understanding of depression. I was convinced that the term wasn’t applicable to my circumstances, because the lows always went away. Instead, I decided I was weak, unique and abnormal, which led me to suffer in silence.

By the time I arrived at university, several years later, these depressions had become darker, more dangerous, and much more volatile. Within days, I could abruptly shift from a ‘low’ to a state of high energy, confidence and character, completely detached from the mood that preceded it.
Now, when the depressions lifted, I faced new challenges: periods of rapid and obsessive thoughts which would immobilise me as much as the lows. The complete lack of control was, and still is, terrifying. Finally, I sought help.

I was referred to a psychiatrist, and was told with conviction that these symptoms were all typical of bipolar. The diagnosis was an unwelcome surprise, but also a liberating one; I had finally been given a framework within which to understand, and a clinical vocabulary with which to express, the experiences of the previous six years.

Together, we explored the developments of my mental health since adolescence: the changing form of my depressions, the significance of its cycling nature, and the neglected symptoms of ‘highs’. Hypomanic episodes, the other ‘pole’ of the condition, tend to be characterized by euphoria, unchallenged ambition, disinhibition, high energy, and the rapid thoughts I’d become well acquainted with.

We discussed my unpredictable spending sprees: the unused accordion, the £1,000 pursuit to learn three languages at once, and the vast array of old boxes I’d considered essential at the time of purchase. Then came the erratic behaviour. Just weeks earlier, dressed in chequered shirts, I invested hundreds in wood-whittling kits and, to a background of country music, I planned a trip to remote Alaska, believing that my destiny lay with the land.

Despite my symptoms being relatively pronounced, I knew little about bipolar’s lesser known characteristics, and had subsequently been unable to connect the complexities of my mental health to it. As a result, the medication that aims to halt the progression of bipolar disorder came into my life much later than was ideal.

I lacked an education on the details, experiences and realities of mental health; instead, I drew on the popular misconceptions which mental health stigma creates. I formed a deeply entrenched belief that my mental health was a self-inflicted weakness, and became determined that I didn’t deserve help.
A comprehensive education to explore the origins of my mental health would have challenged this philosophy, and would have given me reliable information on which I could base an understanding of my experiences.

Education should be seen as mental health’s preventative medicine. It confronts the stigma, stands up to ignorance, and strengthens solidarity. It’s reassurance to those who suffer that they are not alone, and that they are not to blame for the ill health that befalls them.

Hi, I'm Ed! Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. Ever since, I have been trying to understand my condition. This is the first time I’ve spoken publicly about my experience, and in doing so, I hope to help break down the barriers for those around me which prevent us from openly discussing our mental health. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What You Don't See

'This blog is about educating people on anorexia and how by looking at someone, you cannot know what they are going through inside.'

                                                                                                            - Claire McKenna

In my blogs, I have talked about how people’s comments can be so dangerous for those suffering with eating disorders and other forms of mental health difficulties.

The most distressing comments I endure that have the biggest effect on me is on the lines of ‘you don’t look like you have anorexia’, ‘you’d never think by looking at you… you eat enough though don’t you…?”

Yes. You may have seen me eat and it may not have been just a plate of lettuce leaves. You might look at me and be aware that I don’t look malnourished or emaciated anymore.

But, you don’t see the constant battle inside that is happening every day of my life.

You don’t see the struggle and anxiety I feel before facing a meal and how much my head is telling me not to eat it.

You don’t see my terrified thoughts and how daunted I am to put that food near my mouth.

You can’t see anorexia screaming so loudly at me to not eat, telling me I am fat and this next meal is going to make me even bigger and how everyone thinks I am greedy.

You don’t see me after meals hating myself for what I’ve just put inside me, or trying to fight the urge to get rid of it and feel ‘empty’ again.

You don’t see me standing in front of the mirror, hardly able to open my eyes because I’m so mortified, distressed and repulsed by what stands in front of me!
You can’t see how alone and inadequate I feel or my desperation to get rid of the excess fat from every part of my body.

You don’t see me when I feel obese and can’t allow myself to sit down because I know you burn more calories standing rather than sitting or lying down.

This is because anorexia is a MENTAL illness not a physical illness, just like you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have depression, PTSD, OCD, Bipolar etc.

Being told you don’t look like you have an eating disorder just sends the message that one needs to do more to lose weight or that they are ‘not ill enough’ to have an eating disorder or receive treatment/support.

Each time I hear the words ‘you don’t look anorexic’, my instinct is to plan how from that moment on what meals I will skip, how much extra exercise I should do. I can’t put my finger on why it does this, but it just does. That one comment can put a halt in my recovery and send me backwards, upsetting all the hard work I’ve done to get where I am now. This is because eating disorders are fatal mind games.

Therefore, it is so important that people are aware of how comments can create distress and trigger individuals. The only way people will understand this is by being educated on the matter, in which I have created this blog.

Hi, I'm Claire. I have recently just graduated with a first class honours in BA Education at the University of Birmingham. I currently write my own blog to try and raise awareness of mental health and remove the unhelpful stigmas that are often attached. I wanted to share some of these blogs and write for Student Minds as I have been suffering with Anorexia and depression for over 8 years.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, there is help and support out there. Visit the Student Minds support page where you can find more information and places to go for help.

Visit support page here. 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Why I chose to walk a marathon for Student Minds

Rosie writes about why she has chosen to walk a marathon for Student Minds.
- Rosie Steele

In March of this year I became a fundraising champion for Student Minds.

I am extremely passionate about student mental health and my role as a fundraising champion. My problems with my mental health have been apparent from childhood but really started being a problem for during my GCSEs and A levels. University has also been one of the toughest periods of my life through coping with separation anxiety, loneliness, isolation through not wanting to leave my room, and academic perfection linked to a fear of failure. I became aware of the work Student Minds do during my second year of university when my mental health started to become more of a ‘surviving over thriving’ period and looked through the different resources available to me, making me feel less alone, and reminding me to prioritise my own mental wellbeing.

Student mental health is an issue that really needs to be supported as 1 in 4 adults experience a mental health difficulty through any point in their lifetime. Next time you’re in a large lecture theatre or just in public look around and think of how many people may be suffering in silence without access to or the knowledge of how to gain support for the help they need. Through early intervention ‘the considerable risk’ of academic failure and dropping out linked to mental health can be lessened. Research has also shown that undergraduate students have lower levels of wellbeing than the rest of the population.

On University Mental Health Day in March of this year Student Minds brought together the link between physical and mental wellbeing through their Active Mental Health day

Throughout the worst periods of my mental health during my GCSEs, A Levels and university exam revision my mum made sure I got out of the house each day to walk the dog. I found and still do find these walks extremely therapeutic. Stepping away from the stress of revision for half an hour gave me time to clear my head but also talk freely to my mum about all the worry. There’s nothing quite like telling your anxious thoughts to a large field and not taking them back to the house with you. Even when at university and away from my dog, if I began to feel anxious and could feel thoughts creeping in I’d try my hardest to step away from my desk and get myself outside, even if I just walked to the Tesco at the end of the road and back.

As well as this, in April the BBC aired ‘Mind Over Marathon' in which ten mental health sufferers trained for and ran a marathon showing just how closely mental and physical health are linked. One of the runners Jake Tyler “blackdogwalks” on Instagram is now hiking his way around the UK to “promote movement as a way to manage mental health”. This really motivated me as I thought I won’t just be helping others but also myself, being active for my own mental wellbeing.

This is why myself, my mum and my little scotty dog Jack are taking on the challenge of walking a marathon across five days from the 7th -11th August. When thinking of ways I could fundraise a sponsored walk was my first idea. I toyed with the idea of a marathon in a day or a bigger amount say 50 miles across a week but then I thought no that is not realistic. I want to show other students, other young people the benefits of walking in a realistic manner that anyone can do. Motivating yourself to do any kind of exercise with a mental illness is hard, I’ve certainly never gone for a proper run (I used to run a mile with my best friend Lucy on a Friday night down some country lanes) but I’m not sure anyone’s going to sponsor me to do that. Finding something you enjoy, find bearable even is key to becoming active for your mental health. I’m seeing it as my own version of ‘Mind Over Marathon’ albeit not a traditional one.

We are taking on this walk from the 7th - 11th August and I’d love for you to support both myself and the amazing work Student Minds do. Just a pound or three pounds instead of your coffee will help towards changing the face of student mental health.

Through your support Student Minds can continue the amazing work they do, researching and advocating for students across the UK and creating campaigns who help students just like you and me to not just survive but thrive through what can be very challenging years.

Any donations and support are so gratefully received and I hope you’ll support me (and my mum and dog). Link to donate -

I'm Rosie and I'm about to enter my third year of a media, culture and communication degree in Liverpool. I suffer from anxiety, and separation anxiety which has made university a tough time, leading me to find Student Minds. I am now a Fundraising Champion which allows me to share my mental health story whilst raising money for something I am so passionate about helping to bring awareness to. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

We Need Mental Health Education in Schools

Kate draws upon her own experiences with mental health to advocate for better mental health education in all schools.

All of us have mental health and all of us can at some point suffer from mental health difficulties, yet mental health remains steeped in great stigma. In fact, 26% of young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts*; 1 in 10 suicides in the UK are by those aged 15-24**; and 10% of young people have a diagnosable mental health condition**. Why then is mental health not on the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools?

I vividly recall, throughout my primary and secondary education, lessons on safe sex, healthy eating, drug use and bullying, but not even one on mental health. Mental health is equally as important as – and can often be a cause or consequence of these issues. In fact, a 2014 survey by Beatbullying found that 55% of those bullied as children develop mental health conditions as adults, with more than one in three having suicidal thoughts or self-harming. So why is it neglected from the school curriculum?

At 11 years old, I experienced notable changes in my mental health. I started to experience insomnia, often struggling to get to sleep until 3am which at 11 years old was confusing and distressing. And, apart from going to school or to the odd sleepover/meet-up with friends, I barely left my room let alone my house. I found myself constantly making up excuses to avoid going out. I didn’t know why: I just couldn’t, nor did I want to, leave the house. 

My difficulties got worse when I was 12; I had just moved back to the UK and started at a new girls’ grammar school. I remember going to school each day and spending all day with my friends yet feeling so alone. As I struggled more with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts, I had what felt like these huge and shameful secrets and that I had no one to go to. One part of me was desperate for someone to read my mind, to notice I wasn’t okay, whilst the other part of me put all energy into masking my struggles – I was terrified of anyone finding out and seeing into my private world. 

Throughout my school years I didn’t realise that I was suffering from serious mental health difficulties. I had never been taught about depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or suicidal ideation, so how on earth was I supposed to understand my own mental health? It is no wonder that I spent so many years living in fear and shame for conditions that could have been treated much earlier on. 

When people do open up about their mental health, they are often faced with invalidation and stigma. The stigmas attached to mental health often stem from ignorance. Without mental health education, it is inevitable that young people are going to be ill informed about mental health and thus will likely struggle to openly discuss, understand and support others with a mental illness. 

So, can we blame people’s ignorance when schools have failed to educate them about mental health? Until people start talking about, normalising and understanding mental health, ignorance and stigmas will continue to be reinforced. The stigmas attached to mental health need to be broken and compulsory mental health education in schools is an incredibly important step towards this. 

Being taught about mental health may not necessarily have prevented my mental health conditions but I may have been more aware about my mental health and may not have suffered for so many years in silence. Maybe I would have felt able to seek help without fearing being judged and would have recognised sooner that I wasn’t well. 

Ultimately, mental health education in schools could encourage a young person to speak out about their own mental health with the confidence that they will not be stigmatised, but that their feelings will be validated and that they will receive the support they deserve and need.

If you're feeling low or anxious as a student we might be able to help you get support. For more information about finding support services visit

* YoungMinds (2016a) Mental health statistics. (Accessed: 6 November 2016).
** YoungMinds (2016b) Mental health statistics - young people statistics. Available at:

Hi I'm Kate, a Psychology undergraduate at King's College London. I want to write for Student Minds to share my ongoing experiences with mental illness, hopefully helping others to feel less alone, more able to speak up, and to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Do you want to go to a Summer Fete that openly supports mental health?

Angela and Andrew are holding a Student Minds Summer Fete to raise awareness of student mental health, raise money for Student Minds and most importantly for people to have fun!  
- Andrew Morbey and Angela Hulbert

Have you ever wanted to go to a summer fete that openly supports mental health? Then look no further because on the 6th of August a Student Minds Summer Fete is coming to Clapham Common, London. This will be a day packed full of fun. There will be 6 hours of touch rugby, henna, facepaints, a raffle, some traditional summer fete games and more, all in the name of Student Minds.

This is a day that is being organised by Andrew and Angela, two fundraising champions who passionately believe in raising awareness about mental health. But why exactly are we doing this?  After both being affected by mental illness there are stories behind our passion:

Angela: “4 years ago my life turned upside down as my mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour, the prospect of possibly losing her, left me suffering with depression and anxiety and as a means to cope I began to self-harm. After a while spent in a rut I eventually began recovery and whilst it was a long process 2 years later I realised that I wanted to turn my negative experience into one that could empower others. I created my blog and my journey as a mental health advocate began. Being a Fundraising Champion is allowing me to meet new people who are just as passionate as I am and together we are all helping to remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness.”

Andrew: “After waking up one morning 8 years ago and not knowing whether I could physically get out of bed, I began ignoring the other classic signs of depression. I spent 2 months hiding these feelings from my parents, until I came home from school crying. There is no real cause for my depression, maybe genes, my subconscious or perhaps chemical imbalances, but it’s something I’ve had to accept. It’s taken me a while come to grips with. But since joining the Student Minds Fundraising Champions, I’ve found new confidence in being open about my mental health and a close group of friends I can just chat to. I have also found people just like me who are passionate about making a difference removing the mental health stigma.”

We really hope you will join us for not only fun but also this educating and stigma reducing day. If you would like to keep up to date about the event then you can do so by liking our event page .

We hope to see you there.
Angela and Andrew

Friday, 30 June 2017

My First 3 Runs - 12 Runs in 12 Months

Andrew is running to improve student mental health and documents his experience completing the first 3 runs.
- Andrew Morbey

I decided that I’d sign up to one 10km or half marathon each month for a year, as this was a great way of tying my passion for fundraising and sport together. I wanted you to follow me in my journey so here is how I found my first 3 runs.

"All I ask for during these fundraisers, is for people to start talking about depression and mental health."

29th April 2017 – Sheffield Colour Run
I knew what a Colour Run was; a few of my friends in Sydney had done them previously in the past and had seen their photos. But I had never participated in one. Once hearing that there was on in Sheffield, it meant I could meet up with a friend who lives in Sheffield, as well as take part in my first colour run. The run was 5 km starting and finishing on an open-air dance floor with DJ’s and an MC, cheering everyone on and providing the entertainment and music.

I had previously just finished my year of sobriety, so for me, it was incredible seeing people dancing, singing, socialising and throwing colourful chalk all over each other, with no alcohol in sight. I’m not against alcohol, I enjoy a drink every now and then, but being able to dance and laugh with a group of sober strangers was quite a nice feeling.

28th May 2017 – Hercules Festival of Sport
Having decided to run 12 running events in 12 months, I found this one as I was browsing running events. It was based at Merchant Taylors’ School near Watford. There were plenty of people there lining up to participate in either a triathlon, duathlon, cycling, fun run, 5 km run or a 10 km run. I had signed myself up for the 10 km. My aim was to finish with only 3 stops for walking and finish under an hour.

I completed it in 58 minutes with 3 ‘rest walks’ and immediately called my mum back in Sydney. The feeling of accomplishment is quite special, especially beating my targets and surprising my mum with a phone call. However, I ended up going back to my friends place in London and slept on her couch for the day. One event at a time I guess.

18th June 2017 – Hampshire Hoppit Half-Marathon
I was asked to replace my co-worker, Oli, in this run as he had been called to Portugal for a work trip. He had explained that it was a trail run, which meant nothing to me, but there were was a free half pint glass and a medal. I thought ‘a free medal and a half pint glass would be well worth it’. Little did I know that a trail run literally means off road, up and downs hills and potholes that could do some serious damage to someone’s ankles.

I got to the starting line surrounded by happy and motivated people, going for personal best times or just wanting to finish the run. We all knew it was going to be tough, it had already reached 26oC at 11am and within the first 2 miles we reached the ‘Hill of Death’. It was a hill you would associate with rolling or sliding down, not running/walking up. It wasn’t the best of starts, but everyone powered on.

Throughout the run, I was amazed by the Hampshire countryside, the rolling green hills, the crops and the blue sky. It was quite a special run, but fitness and soreness was starting to take over. I got the chance of meeting a few people along the way, talking about other runs they had done or just general small talk on how hot it was. I was lucky enough to make friends with Natalie, a fellow runner/walker whose boyfriend had run off ahead and left her to continue by herself. I told her she had to motivate me to keep running every now and then as she was the experienced half marathon runner, considering this was my first.

When we did finally finish, I had felt a huge sense of accomplishment finishing my first half marathon. Then Oli’s brother, George who had finish well before me, and his parents greeted me and congratulated me. Then knowing that I’ll be putting myself through this 9 more times will be quite a challenge physically and mentally.

A lot of people have called me crazy, but when I tell them why I’m doing it and about my depression, I see them empathise and congratulate me for trying to make a difference. That is all I ask for during this fundraiser, is for people to start talking about depression and mental health.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Student Drinking Culture

After months of binge drinking at University, and eventually finding out the hard way that alcohol is not good for her mind. Erin made the sensible decision to stop drinking. Despite being keen to “fit in” and not be perceived as boring, she put aside society’s judgements and focused on making her mind as healthy as it could be.
-Erin  Cadden 

I have never had to contemplate my relationship with alcohol. Drinking was always something I did socially, I didn’t abuse the substance so I couldn’t have had an issue with it, or so I thought. What I have come to realise, is that alcohol can be self-destroying and a depressant in itself. Mixing my complicated and frazzled mind with alcohol is not healthy. I would never participate in any activities that I knew would add additional pressure to my mental illness, so, why did I continue to drink? knowing the negative consequences?

I thought I was sensible when it came to alcohol. Yes, sometimes I drank a little too much, but doesn’t everyone at university? I thought this was normal… Everyone just seemed to be in a constant cycle of being drunk then hung-over and then drunk again. Due to this, I never considered stopping drinking. I was a student, for me, this meant I had to drink to fit in. Only now, at 3 months sober, I realise how wrong I was.

People drink to be social, I drank for different reasons. When I drank, it was to numb numb my mind. It was to stop my thoughts from constantly ticking over. All too often my social anxiety would get the better of me, especially when socialising in big groups. The only way I thought I could overcome this, was to drink. Don’t get me wrong, there were times where I drank to enjoy myself with my friends. However, most of the time I drank, it was to try to rid myself of the pain in my mind. I was so desperate to not be the “odd one out” that I drank to give myself, what I thought was, more confidence. Really, all I wanted to do was stay in bed and never leave.

A few drinks later and I would notice my thoughts hadn’t gone quite, hadn’t slowed down like wanted them to. The reality was quite the opposite. My thoughts would gain momentum, accelerated to a speed that was uncontrollable. I would be socialising, having fun, meanwhile, my mind would be constantly telling me things I did not want to hear. So I continued to drink, it was the only remedy I knew. I’d drink until I no longer heard the racing thoughts. I’d drink until the thoughts had drowned in the vodka I had consumed. At this point, I would be in a state, where I simply could not handle myself.

Frightening, isn’t it? I was putting myself in this a state, to try to save myself, from myself. I was so concerned with being judged by my peers that I thought drinking was the best way to be accepted socially. I would have far rather drank myself silly and endured thoughts that made me hate myself than accept who I am. Until I realised, alcohol isn’t good for me or my mind.

It’s hard sometimes, to refuse a drink when I am out with friends. However, I can feel my mind getting healthier every day and I will not let one drink of alcohol put that in jeopardy. I find the hardest part of being sober is not turning down a drink. It’s admitting to people that I don’t drink. 

The looks, the surprise, the questions, I receive from people when I order my virgin cocktail or non-alcoholic beer is, embarrassing. It makes me feel belittled and awkward. I am confident that I do not need to drink to have fun. So why do others question my ability to be social, without having a drink?

Why do my peers find it so peculiar that I don’t drink alcohol? Ask yourself, would your reaction in a situation like this be much different? It can be so unintentional. To be honest, these responses come mostly from my friends and other people I regularly socialise with. 

So, if there is anything you can take from this post, it’s to be less judgemental. If you come across someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, be it myself, or anyone else, think before you respond. Remember that not everyone drinks alcohol to be fun and drinking alcohol is not a positive experience for everyone.

I am happy and comfortable with myself. I know I don’t need any substances to enjoy a night out. If anything, I’m having more fun without alcohol than I ever had before!


Hi, my name is Erin, I am currently in my final year studying Design Management at UAL in London. I shave suffered from my mental health from the age of 10 years old. My diagnoses are still ongoing but suspected off; Depression, Anxiety, Autism, Bipolar and Borderline personality disorder. I began writing for Student Minds in order to share my own experiences of my journey with mental health. The aim is to increase awareness and to decrease the stigma attached to mental illnesses as a whole.