It's Okay Not to Be Okay: A Journey through Mental Health Struggles

In recognition of Mental Health Week, it is essential to prioritize the mental well-being of our community. Among the challenges we face, sharing personal stories can offer hope and solidarity. This article delves into one of the international student’s journeys. As it navigates the complexities of mental health. This story of struggles, resilience, and ultimately hope serves as a touching reminder that “it is okay not to be okay sometimes”. Through these students’ experiences, we aim to encoura

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In recognition of Mental Health Week, it is essential to prioritize the mental well-being of our community. Among the challenges we face, sharing personal stories can offer hope and solidarity. This article delves into one of the international student’s journeys. As it navigates the complexities of mental health. This story of struggles, resilience, and ultimately hope serves as a touching reminder that “it is okay not to be okay sometimes”. Through these students’ experiences, we aim to encourage an open dialogue about mental health, fostering a supportive and understanding environment for all. 

“Once upon a time, a student made the bold decision to leave behind her career at Deloitte and her passions for styling and photography to pursue a master’s degree in international business management in the UK. This journey began on January 13th, 2023, filled with dreams and aspirations but also unanticipated challenges. Adjusting to the cost-of-living crisis, the solitude of a new country, and the process of adapting to a new culture while making new friends proved to be a frightening task. And this story underscores the importance of addressing mental health challenges openly and with compassion. As an ambivert, her experiences swinged between extremes.

Some days, she felt overwhelmed with loneliness and homesickness, isolating herself and crying intensely. Joy seemed shifty, and her mental health rapidly declined, making everyday life a battle. She lost interest in texting, calling, and socializing, often feeling like giving up on everything. Additionally, she struggled to sleep at night, often lying awake on an empty stomach or consumed with thoughts of her parents. These challenges highlighted the importance of self-care and seeking support.

Despite the dark times, a few close friends became her life belt, offering support when she was cranky, frustrated, and struggling with her mental health. Driven by the hope of a better future, she persevered through her studies. Financial worries haunted her, often forcing her to eat only once a day to stretch her groceries, even lied to her parents, assuring them she was eating three meals a day. The stress of being jobless for four months made her mental health issues worse, leading to blackouts, and waiting alone and with friends sometimes in the hospital queue for hours only made her feel more stressed. Living independently has been an invaluable lesson in self-reliance and adaptability. Throughout this journey, her friends have been a vital support system, reinforcing the importance of seeking help when needed. While there were moments of emotional turbulence, they served as reminders of the strength found in weakness. An important moment in her life was when she and her friend faced homelessness for three months. Despite the kindness of friends who offered shelter, the struggle took a toll on her mental health. Comprehensive searches for assistance left her feeling hopeless and giving up. It was a challenging time that tested her resolve and led her to question her choices. At times, she considered seeking therapy or counselling but felt hesitant due to concerns about others' perceptions. However, holding the idea of professional support has ultimately underscored the significance of prioritizing her well-being. Regardless occasional homesickness, each challenge has been an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.”

This story is not just about anyone; it is about me. Despite facing ups & downs, discouragement, and bullying, I continue to overcome these challenges, refusing to let negative comments impact my personal life. Throughout this journey, I discovered a passion for listening and showing empathy, realizing the importance of mutual support.

The overcoming stress and nurturing mental health, it's important to acknowledge that “it is okay to not be okay sometimes”. I find comfort in doing activities like going for a walk, indulging in gaming, pursuing favourite hobbies like admin work or photography, capturing contents, or simply cooking can provide a much-needed rest. Personally, I have found comfort in checking on others, furthermore in my own quirky way—by sharing lame jokes and engaging in light-hearted banter. But among our own struggles, it is crucial to extend a compassionate hand to those around us.

Remember, signs of inner confusion aren't always obvious. From appearing continual cheerful to constantly offering support to others, individuals may mask their struggles behind a face of strength. Yet, beneath the surface, they may be silently battling demons of depression or anxiety.

It's vitally important to recognize these signs and symptoms:
seems happy all the time
never asks for a help
is always keeping busy
just ended a relationship
a sudden change in behaviour
a drag out period of silence
even recent life events like a job change or loss of a loved one.

By actively reaching out and checking on others, we not only cultivate a culture of empathy but also ensuring a supportive environment where mental health is prioritized.

I am proud of my journey through mental health struggles. After completing my first term, my life took a significant turn when I ran for Cardiff Met SU Vice President and was elected for 2023-2024, and again this year for 2024/25. This milestone was a proud moment, made possible by the unwavering support of the students and friends who believed in me. This role has been transformative, providing me with purpose and connecting me to a caring community. At Cardiff Met, both the university staff and the SU team have been exceptionally supportive, greatly enhancing people’s mental well-being. Their care underscored the importance of expressing emotions and seeking help. Welcoming all feelings: crying, happiness, or numbness- is vital for personal growth.

Especially in UK, it has taught me the importance of mental health and the value of seeking help. The recent Wonkhe conference - 'The Secret Life of Students' was incredibly valuable and discovered that not only me as an international student, but students across the UK are struggling with similar issues. According to recent data, only 3% of students feel financially secure, while a staggering 85% worry about money, with over half reporting that it significantly impacts their mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, stress, and even depression. Many students face lower grades due to the relentless pressure of financial stress, with 57% receiving lower grades than expected in the past year alone. Additionally, factors such as health issues, the necessity of paid employment, and long journeys to campus are further attendance challenges. These challenges not only hinder academic performance but also take a heavy toll on students' overall well-being and ability to thrive.

So, let's make a collective effort to be there for one another. Let's listen, let's empathize, and let's extend a helping hand to those in need. Together, through small gestures of kindness and genuine concern, we can create a ripple effect of positivity and well-being, ensuring that no one feels alone in their struggles. 

The mental health services have been instrumental in students’ recovery. Their support, through coffee sessions and conversations, will help overcome your darkest moments by sharing your problems. I encourage everyone to reach out to the mental health services available at our university and beyond. Cardiff Met offers resources such as counselling and well-being support, and the NHS provides additional help for those in need.

You can find more information for support:
University Support groups - click here for more info
Student Career support - click here for more info
NHS Mental Health Services - click here for more info

bigmoose is an inspiring mental health charity dedicated to providing fast and effective therapy for those in need. Their relentless commitment to making a difference has seen them achieve remarkable milestones, including raising £792,683 in just 486 days through Project 1 million. With over 11,000 people joining their cause, they have already saved and changed countless lives. But their journey doesn't end here—they are now aiming for an even bigger goal of £15 million for mental health. Together, we can support Big Moose in their mission to create positive change and make a lasting impact on mental health. Remember, they are here to help, and every contribution counts towards building a healthier, happier world.

Mental health is a journey, and it is vital to check on yourself and those around you. We all have our stories, some are more challenging than mine or the others, but every story matters. It's okay not to be okay. By sharing my story, I hope to encourage you to seek help, support each other, and create a community where everyone feels understood and valued.
Remember, the Students' Union is always here to guide you and listen to your problems. Let's prioritize our mental well-being and remind ourselves that it is okay to ask for help. You are not alone. Thank you for reading and stay strong.
“You are not alone in your struggles.”

-Rewathi Viswanatham
Cardiff Met SU Vice President
 

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