Looking after your own mental health and wellbeing is important, especially when covering the topics of suicide or mental ill-health in your tertiary education.
Some content may be distressing, so it's important to know when to talk to your peers and when to reach out for professional support.
If you or someone you know is in need of personal support, your university campus should have an on-site counselling service. If an on-site counselling isn't available, your university may be able to refer you to a counsellor in your local area.
Alternatively, reach out and talk to your GP or contact a 24/7 support service.
Looking after your own mental health
As a journalism or communications student, you may find yourself in circumstances, which are distressing or in, which you need additional support.
Students in any discipline may have personal or motivational factors, which make it difficult to manage their study workload. Often, it's about having workable parameters around having a positive study/life balance.
Journalism students will be exposed to, or will cover traumatic events like, natural disasters or violent crimes throughout their time studying and when they're in the field. In preparation to handle these kinds of events, it's important to take active steps to be mindful of your wellbeing whilst discussion occurs around these topics throughout your studies.
Discussion and disclosure
It is important to recognise that people you surround yourself with may have had experience with difficult life events or mental illness - either in their own personal lives or someone who is close to them.
People may choose not to disclose this information for a number of reasons. When discussing any issues like this, we need to be sensitive to the needs of others and to the issues they may not have disclosed.
While it’s important to explore these topics, it's just as important to have a safe discussion.
- Showing respect for the views of others. You can disagree constructively and calmly and explain your perspective, but don't ridicule anyone for their beliefs.
- A lecture or tutorial may not be the best place to disclose in-depth information or distressing experiences. Even if you feel fine about it, others may not. Talk about the issue more broadly in class, then talk to trusted friends or in private with a professional if you feel the need.
- It's ok to step out of a lecture. If you've had difficult personal experiences yourself, try not to just skip the session. If you feel unable to attend, explain this to your lecturer or tutor. It may still be important for you to learn about the issue in some other way as part of your professional development, particularly if you want to be able to help others in the future.
- Knowing when to seek additional support. If a discussion brings up difficult issues for you, talk to your lecturer or tutor afterward, or to a professional. Most university campuses have a confidential counselling service that can be readily accessed by students.
Dealing with stress
Everyone experiences stress from time to time and the experiences that trigger it are different for each person.
Stress isn't the same for all individuals, and someone may feel a particular situation is stressful, while others do not.
Severe or ongoing stress can make us feel unable to make decisions or work constructively on what we are trying to achieve.
Signs of stress may include:
- Feelings. Feeling anxious, scared, upset, irritable or moody
- Thoughts. Low self-esteem, worry, fear of failure, difficulty concentrating
- Behaviour changes. Crying, acting impulsively, being easily startled, laughing nervously, grinding teeth, increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Physical responses. Sweaty hands, perspiration, shaking, racing heart, fast shallow breathing, physical tension, headaches, dry mouth, 'butterflies' and stomach problems.
A certain amount of stress has the potential to motivate you and allows you to achieve positive outcomes.
If stress is ongoing and prevents you from being productive in your daily life, it may be worth considering some positive strategies to better manage the stressors in your life.
It is important to develop positive strategies for dealing with stress, which could include:
- monitoring your stress
- setting goals and priorities
- managing your time
- being social
- looking after your body
- asking for help.