Our lead story this issue reminds us of the prevalence of mental health problems amongst the student population. The high numbers of people waiting for the UCD counselling service can tell us that one of two things is happening: either more people are struggling with mental health, or more people are seeking help for dealing with mental health problems.
To anyone who comes forward with a mental health problem, it can be daunting to say you’re struggling, it can be hard to tell people you need help. As much as we say otherwise, a stigma still exists surrounding mental health problems. The fear of how they may be perceived, of having their concerns dismissed as nonsense, or not wanting to burden others, can all contribute to too many people staying silent.
That 194 people have come forward to ask for help is a good thing. That some of those 194 people will be waiting until after Christmas for help is not. Clearly more needs to be done to get UCD students the help they need, whether it’s finding more external counsellors where students can be referred or hiring more counsellors something needs to be done.
The pressure on students to perform well academically can become overwhelming towards the end of the semester. What is so important to remember is that your own worth cannot be measured by the degree you get at the end of your time in UCD, it cannot be measured by the number of extracurricular activities on your transcript, and it is not dictated by other people. Every single person matters, and we are all loved, even when we don’t think we deserve to be.
As we head into exam season, more and more students will find the pressure increasing and the stress building, during this time, remember to take care of yourself. Take the time to have an evening off and watch your favourite film. Eat proper meals; do not live off pot noodle or Centra pizzas.
For anyone who is struggling, do not struggle in silence. Seek out your student advisor, the Welfare Officer, or your GP. It is normal to struggle at times, and speaking out and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
The other hot topic in this issue has to be the presidential by-elections. 6611 students voted in the impeachment referendum last month, a huge turnout by any standards in a UCDSU vote. Don’t grow complacent now. Whatever your views, whatever you want, get out and vote. Take control of your union in the way that you can. Have your say.
More students turned out to vote in the impeachment referendum than in the original presidential elections last March. Too often we are only motivated to act when we believe we have been somehow wronged, we act reactively instead of proactively. By informing ourselves of candidates’ positions, ideas, and experience, we can change how the future plays out.
This applies to the upcoming by-election, but on a larger scale, in every vote that comes our way. Whether it’s a local or national election, or a referendum, we have a duty to make the world the way we want it to be as citizens of a democracy.
Too many people in the world don’t have the rights we do. Too many people have no say in how their countries are run, in the conditions they work in. We are fortunate to live in a democratic country, and we are so lucky to have a union. We have an organisation that is dedicated to fighting for our rights, and it is up to the student body to tell the union what the union to do and what to be.
In the near, and the distant, future, don’t be afraid to speak out. Whether it’s casting a vote, or telling someone you want help. Don’t ever let yourself be silenced, or suffer in silence. Be brave: use your voice.