Between 2007 and 2015 the number of student suicides in the UK increased by 79 per cent, and its with this data that questions about the mental health support available in universities increases.
Today universities offer different support systems when it comes to mental health, with various way to access it. It’s possible to seek support in various ways on campus, and often from different platforms online too. Also, in some universities, a “mental health day” occurs once a year, and they provide a constant on-campus counsellor.
But the problem with some of these services is the fact that they are efficient as long as they aren’t in use.
One of the problems with the help offered right now by some universities is that real help is not well organised, but its advertised as so; to a point in which it seems that some universities are doing their best to only provide enough support to not to end up in legal troubles. With all the energy invested in such support tools, it’s ridiculous the way it fails facing real dangerous situations.
The majority of the support offered by universities, comes from the antiquated medical ideology. This includes the belief that people living certain deep life experiences are going to seek help automatically themselves when at their lowest moment. But this is not the case, and the majority of times, this creates misconceptions.
People facing certain life crisis are willing to get help, but more likely can’t find a reason or the strength to seek it. It takes an enormous amount of strength for certain people to finally seek help, but it can be in vain easily, especially when the quality of the help is mediocre or coming from the wrong conceptions.
Seeking help in the university environment should be facilitated, but often leads to confusing online pages, making this crucial procedure really frustrating and further from the help needed.
But there is no number of emails, of webpages and or 15-minutes-tutorials that can actually have an incisive effect in every situation, which is why I think blaming universities entirely is not the answer, and why I think this current helping system is not working.
The first step towards a better mental health support in universities should be in a utopic, but concrete and constant sensitising of students and staff on the topic mental health, not with a badly advertised “Mental Health Day”.
The amount of help universities can provide is of course limited in both amount and efficacy, no matter how organised. Especially in extreme cases, the help provided by universities is never gonna be the final answer, and we shouldn’t expect it.
The goal shouldn’t be to save someone, but rather to guarantee the right supportive environment to then try to effectively help. The environment sourrounding a student often tends to marginalise certain attitudes or to generally misunderstand them, aggravating a situation that is unstable itself.
A more vigil and less naive attitude in the entirety of the university environment needs to form, due to these incidents of mental illness progressing.
It’s not the final help that truly counts, but rather the support to finally seek help, and its that we should improve.
Last May, University of Bristol student, Ben Murray decided to take his own life at the age of 19.
After finishing his first year as a university student, Ben received an email from the institute in which he was informed of his dismissal from the course; which Ben’s mother believes could be the triggering event for her son.
“No 19-year-old fresher should have been kicked off course without a face-to-face meeting” stated Janet during an interview with the BBC, explaining that Ben was already in a heavly distressed situation before receiving the news.
Ben’s family in fact accuses Bristol University of failing to support Ben during his most difficult moments, alleging that dozens of staff memebers interacted with Ben before his death, without helping him; whilst Ben previously informed the university about his situation.“He spent far too long struggling. Much earlier intervention was needed and should have happened,” stated his father during the hearing at Avon Coroner’s court.
Although Ben was informed by his tutor of the various services around the university, it was not enough, and Ben is now the most recent of a list of seven students that have died of suicide at Bristol University in the past 18 months (Miranda Williams, Daniel Green, Kim Long, Lara Nosiru, Elsa Scaburri, James Thomson and Justin Cheng).
With Exam season coming, here are some tips that will definitely help with your revision.
Get drunk. Every day, every night, getting drunk is a fantastic way to procrastinate and spend an unnecessary amount of money.
Start a new series. Netflix was made for the exam season, why not try Archer or Orange is The New Black? With hundreds of hours already on Netflix you can be sure that you won’t even think about starting revision.
Create a Pinterest, want to start planning the home you want to buy, or the holiday you won’t be able to afford because you spent too much time browsing the web than studying? Pinterest is the place to go.
Find out what kitchen appliance you would be. Buzzfeed offer a number of pointless yet entertaining quizzes that are a sure fire way to de-stress you and waste hours on finding yourself rather than revising.
Tidy the house. It’s a great way to feel productive whilst still not doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing. While you’re at it why don’t you re-arrange your room? After all, a clean space = a clean mind.
When you’re really stuck for things to do you have to go to the last resort, phoning your parents. It may not be the most exciting thing and you’ll definitely get moaned at for something, maybe like, not doing your revision?
It’s that time of year again, where exams are coming at you left, right and centre. Exams are always stressful, but when you’re at university and you have four in a day it can get a bit too much. But don’t worry, you’re not alone, these students are all crying in a corner with you.
When you realise exam season is next week and you’ve done little to no revision.
“Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May famously said regarding the UK’s path to a European exit. That is all good. But what does Brexit mean for those, who will have to live all around it? Is there any hope for hospitality or expectation of hostility for nations such as Bulgarians, which come to the UK in search of a better life?
What does Brexit mean for us- the poor Eastern European students in jeopardy?
The increasing dissatisfaction among Britons regarding the number of immigrants from the eastern parts of the continent has been causing distinct unease about the sight of a Bulgarian passport. It seems to signify things. And not particularly good ones. It immediately sets us apart. But before you rush into judgements, systematically prescribed by most, if not all, British mainstream media, give us a chance to explain ourselves.
Yes, we want to come to your country. But for very different reasons.
Although it is said that the ‘leave’ campaign is yet to take its share of Britain’s cultural diversity and workforce in small and steady spoonfuls, the first effects are already on the radar.
The number of EU-born graduates has decreased by 50,000 in the last three months of 2016, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank. These numbers seem to reflect what Brexit has the potential to do.
Even more so, what it could have already done to the mindset of the British people. Along with falling numbers of students there is an increase in the uncomfortable issue of immigration and its impact. And yet few seem to care about what it feels like to be a resident and a guest at the same time. That is a deeply subjective one.
“Are you moving from a place where you were accepted to a place where you will be accepted? Or are you moving from a place where you are not as accepted,” explains clinical psychologist, journalist and media expert, Dr. Vinita Mehta.
“If the dominant culture is not very welcoming of immigrants and the myriad of ways they can contribute to the larger society, then immigration and cultural change can give rise to feelings of alienation.”
The cultural diversity of the country, its ‘stock’ of fresh talent and a notable decline in the financial income coming from universities and research are just some of the ‘victims’ of the UK’s self-directed alienation.
With its ‘exit’ from the EU, the UK might end up spending way more than it settled to save. Image: Pixabay
But Bulgarians are not that new to the British cultural landscape, although as a distinct ethnic group in the country we are quite young. The first big waves of emigration occurred in the 1990s and 2000s, when the Bulgarian community really started to take shape.
When the restriction on freedom of movement and work of Bulgarian citizens placed by the British government expired in 2014, it really took off.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 69,000 Bulgarian-born immigrants resided in the UK in 2015. I wonder how many would be inclined to stay in after Brexit comes into power?
Already, there has already been a seven per cent decline in the number of EU students applying to UK universities after Brexit, according to a UCAS report. This trend is expected only to progress in the future.
Here is a silver lining. Bulgarian students still make their way to the UK in even portions. In the period between 2014 and 2016, the number of those making that journey has not changed significantly.
You see, we do not get scared away easily. There is surprisingly little that can come in the way of our ambition. For some reason, for quite a long time now, that ambition has led us primarily to British shores. As soon as we reach solid ground, we turn that ambition into motivation.
In Bulgaria, the UK has a certain reputation. Among the young and adventurous, it is regarded as a safe harbour, a ‘heaven,’ a utopian idyll of limitless opportunities and limited restrictions. This is where you go to build a life and earn a degree along the way.
It is neither an escape route nor an easy way out of the problems of the home country. Well, at least not in all respects.
“When we move away, we have a “frame of reference” of where we came from. Very often in the US at least, people come here to seek out a better way of life, and the frame of reference we have is usually that we’ve “risen above” our former circumstances. That of course may be changing in these times,” says Dr. Mehta.
That is a quest-like initiative in its own right. It is a risk and a challenge. It is a seductive idea, resounding at the back of your head. It is being given a chance.
We make such good use of that chance because of who we are.
It is London above all others, which attracts students who wish to continue their studies in the UK. Image: Asya Gadzheva
Bulgarian students, and fair to say all Bulgarians, share the same untamed, notable and almost self-destructive stubbornness. Giving up is just not an option. It is really that simple. It is built into our DNA. We are fighters. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty in the process, although we might not always go about it with due confidence.
All of that is a result of our complicated past: victories, upsurges, repression and slavery. It is bound to leave a mark. It has forged our national identity.
Can you see it now? It is precisely because of who we are and what we are made of that Brexit will not be able to scare us or drive us away.
So, what does Brexit mean to Bulgarians? Is it a restriction to be imposed and conducted? Is it merely a country’s choice regarding its state and position within a huge international union? Or, is it simply another challenge on the bucket list, with which to ‘feed’ our motivation?
“I think it will be a change. Obviously. The UK is a smart country. I know there are other super developed counties in Europe, which are not in the European Union. Why wouldn’t they do the same?” Boryana, 20, London
“Brexit is a decision the UK took. From what I see in the news, it appears that the nation could not take more from this partnership, from the other counties in the EU, so they decided to take on a different path. That is the only way I can think about it.” Stoyan, 20, London
“The UK has never actually been part of the EU. They didn’t introduce the common currency, they are like from a different dimension. They simply will not accept any other point of view. A foreigner will never be a part of their community.” Bilyana, 20, Sofia
What will the future hold for us in a post-Brexit UK? What will it be left of that utopian idyll, driving more and more students to Sofia International Airport each year?
“Right now there is a feeling in certain Western countries that “outsiders” are taking jobs and resources, when the facts just don’t stack up that way,” Dr. Mehta remarks. “It can make a world of difference to make new social connections in your new home, including with others who are also experiencing cultural adjustment.”
Yes, precisely: adjustment. We must all adjust as necessary to accommodate ourselves within any new environment.
The process starts as soon as you take the first steps when you leave the plane. You have now arrived in the country, which seeks to restrict your access. You have entered the realm of hope. That is what we all bring along. Hope for something better.
We will make something out of it. We always do. That is just the way we are.
Trump is expected to abolish the J-1 Visa, the one widely used by international students to enter into summer internships. WNOL spoke to Yana Hadzhigeorgieva, who took part in an internship with Southwestern Advantage last summer.
Motivated and adventurous students have expressed their concerns about the future of summer internship programmes and the uncertainty around their right to take advantage of what they have to offer.
Southwestern Advantage, founded in 1855 in Nashville, Tennessee, is a company with a long tradition of securing millions of American families the most accessible, up-to-date and useful educational tools.
In 1986, they went one step further. In allowing foreign university students to enter into the already established summer sales and leadership programme, hundreds of students were tempted with promises of rapid, if ‘seasonal,’ success.
Independent conductors, as participants are trained to become, are taught sales, leadership, communication and organizational skills. Most importantly, they are given a chance.
Yana was keen on changing her life; then she found out about Southwestern Advantage. Source: Yana Hadzhigeorgieva
People like Yana Hadzhigeorgieva, 21, from Bulgaria, who participated in Southwestern Advantage last summer. She is currently doing a degree in the Netherlands and has agreed to share her life-changing experience.
What made you consider participating in the programme?
It was an internship, so I had the opportunity to go there to build my CV and see a different country. I am a person, who likes experiences, so I decided to gain some knowledge in the United States.
Did you expect to get chosen?
Definitely not. The requirements for the programme are very challenging. You need to cover a couple of steps in order to get accepted.
Yana ranked among top first years, for which she was awarded. Source: Yana Hadzhigeorgieva
How would you describe a perfect candidate for a first-year experience?
A very motivated person and a person, who is able to overcome every challenge that can come on the ‘bookfield.’ A person, who is not afraid to challenge him of herself.
Is this experience for everybody?
Honestly, I do not think this is for everyone. Usually, people especially in my country think that it is a crazy programme, although the European students get it very easily.
Was there any tension in working with an international team of people?
I do not think there was any, while I was working with Americans, people from the Czech Republic, Russia, the Netherlands. It was actually a competition between us, but we respected each other.
Do you think you need to be competitive in order to succeed?
I do not like competition that much, but somehow you get really motivated to beat the others. So, you become competitive, if you were not before.
Yana had a life-changing summer at Southwestern Advantage. It was the friendly and prepossessing environment above all other, that changed her character and motivated her throughout.
This is what a Southwestern Advantage experience sounds like in her own words.
What did it feel like to be a foreign student in America there and then?
As Americans say: ‘Awesome.’ It was a wonderful experience. I was really well accepted.
Would you say you felt welcomed?
Even though Trump was elected and he does not really want international people in his country, I felt really welcomed to go there again, to meet a lot of nice people, to meet the best families and get inspired for life.
Independent conductors with Southwestern Advantage work with special permits. Source: Yana Hadzhigeorgieva
You are planning to go for your second summer this year. What might be different in a post-Trump America?
I do not think that Americans are going to change for nine months. But maybe it is going to get really difficult to get the J-1 Visa, the one we are using.
Will people be treating you differently?
If they had voted for Trump, that does not mean they are going to change their whole ideal system just because they have another person as a president. Let’s not forget, not everybody voted for Trump, right?
Who will lose if the programme is cancelled?
The people, who are going to lose most are the Americans and their GDP. The students, who go there to work from Europe, they work for their lower-paid working force just for the summer. They are pushing the American economy.
Is there something you regret about the experience?
I regret that I could not finish my programme. I had to leave three weeks earlier because I needed to start school.
Working for Southwestern Advantage teaches you how to handle life, as well as your customers. Source: Yana Hadzhigeorgieva
With what Trump has in store for international summer programmes, we might be seeing experiences coming to a premature end much more often. And, quite unfortunately, for entirely different reasons.
So we are repeatedly told by politicians that the government has no money to fund education, but a recent study suggests otherwise – even more reason to attend the national demonstration for free education.