Mental health as a continuum – IT’S OK!

This is going to be a controversial blog so I just want to note here that these thoughts are my own ideas and not backed up by research. I purely write them here to share my thoughts and know what others think of them. I do not wish to scare anyone or offend anyone.

Throughout my time at university, I struggled with the term mental health because it seemed so definite and damning to whoever has been labelled with this term. The public also seems to have sectioned this term as being used for those who need to be hospitalised and should be avoided by others. I have watched many friends and people I know at university having a tough time and coming to the conclusion that they should give up as they are ‘not strong enough to carry on’ or ‘it’s not for them’. What really needed to happen was a little support from others to say you can do this, you are not alone in feeling this you just need a little push to believe in yourself again.

University is DIFFICULT! – no one should lie to you about this but if you know its something you would like to do then you will always be strong enough to cope with these emotions. A lot of people feel the urge to cry when they get in from a long day or to scream when the printer just won’t co-operate on deadline day or just to pack it all in. If you ever feel like this – it’s OK.

Mental health has such a stigma because it is just so difficult to explain from one individual to the next. This is in contrast to physical illnesses such as breaking your leg – if you’ve broken a bone it means you’ve got to rest for a couple of weeks/ months with a cast to allow healing, simple. It is nowhere as near as simple with mental health.

First of all, you can’t see it, you must rely upon the description of the person explaining their symptoms and trust that they have told you everything. Secondly, treatment is difficult – therapy is the least invasive and solves the problem but it’s not fast! Medicine may solve the symptoms but can lead to dependency.

None of this may be an issue with physical injuries as you are just dealing with a knee and it’s easier to ween people off these drugs, however with the mental treatment you are tampering with people’s feelings and personalities – that’s what’s scary! I know first-hand a little of what it’s like to not know whether your actions are your own or the medication. The hardest thing is coming to terms with the fact that although your disliked actions are your mediation it will never disappear because you must rely on the medication now. IT’S OK

I believe mental health should be related to that of a physical injury to understand that things need time to fix and that it’s not your fault it’s just how your brain is wired, or that it will get better you aren’t stuck with it for life it should be separated for one reason. But physical injuries happen or they don’t. Mental health I picture as a balancing of the scales. It is evident in us all that we experience feelings that may not be completely happy or may not all be optimistic and sane but isn’t this what just makes us, US. I am not saying that we all have depression or autism and need to be out on serotonin reuptake inhibitors right away or that we all need to see a counsellor once a week, I just think that these mental illnesses are within us all – the likelihood of us needing to seek help is based on one thing – balance. IT’S OK.

From these experiences, at University I am beginning to feel that everyone in this world has some form of ‘mental health problems’. Everyone in this world can be irrational, everyone in this world has a bad time where they just need to cry all day, everyone in this world has days where they feel they are useless, everyone in this world loses faith in hope and become pessimistic of the future.

Many may believe I am wrong here but what I feel is wrong is that all these feelings are thought of as ‘odd’, ‘abnormal’, and ‘mental health problems’. I think it’s wrong that feelings such as these have been categorised in such a negative way that when someone is feeling like this they shut down the feelings so to avoid being labelled with things such as depression or anxiety. I think these terms are used to often to explain feelings that are just normal in everyday life while experiencing living away from home, a horrible housemate, dealing with finances, assignments and then any finding a job (here I just list what a university student copes with as it’s what I know but I’m sure you can relate some of your own responsibilities to this list.) Coping with this without the security of home is difficult but you do learn how to cope – its all part of the path of becoming an adult. You aren’t wrong for feeling like this is just your way of adapting and – IT’S OK.

Not everyone will feel like this but I feel today too many people are petrified to hear of their housemate going to someone because they are having problems with University and want to give up to come back with a diagnosis of depression when you are feeling exactly the same. Not everyone is the same! This is what got me thinking about a continuum of mental health in general. We all have irrational thoughts that others just believe is weird but that’s just how we are. Many people get scared by these accusations, myself included, but why?

This statement doesn’t mean we all have depression or autism etc. all it means is we are more similar than we think. We all have the tendencies to have these mental health problems but its how we deal with them that determines the severity. Now my example here is depression but many other mental health illnesses have been mentioned in past literature such as autism. We may have the best support network or a friend who just gets that you need a cry to move on and be stronger for the next day. You may know yourself inside out to know this is just how you deal with things. You may know that yes sometimes you feel as though the world is one huge grey cloud just spitting spite, hatred and failures at you but you know the next day will be ok. This is mental health where you just have symptoms of a particular illness but don’t need intervention as you have the coping mechanisms inside you to get over the bad day. On the other end of the scale, people may experience these things and worse but not have the self-confidence that it’s just a bad day, or that tomorrow will be better – this is a mental health problem that will need intervention as it is damaging to the individual’s health. This is where you have lost or never had (for whatever reason) coping mechanisms inside yourself to cope and get ready for the next day. Both ways are just who you are as an individual and you should never be made to feel as though you shouldn’t feel like this or just that you can shake it off, it’s just who you are and – it’s OK.

I feel it is common knowledge that physical health can deteriorate and when it does far fewer people are discriminated against for it in comparison to mental health. Perhaps in education children should be taught the true definitions of illnesses such as depression and anxiety (I mention them here as they are becoming highly prevalent in society) and what it is like for someone to have this. 

Depression is a term that gets used a lot but as a throwaway term which isn’t fully understood. Children should understand that perhaps one day they may feel like this but it is just the brain’s way of coping with something stressful or traumatic in your life but it is nothing to be scared of – it’s OK.

Now, this article hopefully won’t scare prospective students into not going to Uni but I hope it highlights that when you do go to University that you will experience these feelings. This could either be directly yourself or through others having a tough time – this blog will hopefully show you that its OK to feel like this.

University is an immense change and your mind just needs time to adjust and feel settled. You may never experience these feelings directly but it’s important you understand you may be affected indirectly and so understand a little more about it. OR you may have the ability to cope with these feelings from your own support network OR you may have to seek further help just to give you a little push in the right direction.


This is a re-blog post originally posted by Emma Cree and published with kind permission. The article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2021 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with policy and website updates.

The original post can be found here.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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