“I want LSE to open up about mental health.”
That’s the sentence I’ve said the most in the last 3 months. When my friends cry because a seminar overwhelmed them, I’ll offer it to them as a word of reassurance. When I sit in the student counselling waiting room, the thought bounces through my head constantly. When I overhear people mocking those with mental health conditions in the library, it’s what I end up venting to my flatmates. But it’s never developed beyond that. “We should all be more honest about it” has become a hypocritical slogan of mine.
But can this be avoided? How can a culture of sweeping mental difficulties under the rug be changed? The key is to start small and close to home.
So that’s what I did. On the last day of 2018, bolstered by the support of a close friend from school, I shared a post on my Instagram with the following caption, edited for brevity:
“During my second year, I’ve started to notice the deep extent to which my mental health is linked to social media, and I think this is a problem worth being honest about.
When I had acne, I would edit photos to smooth out my skin in an attempt to convince people that I was good looking. While I don’t literally airbrush things anymore, a lot of what I post is airbrushing of a different kind: the poses, the parties and the occasional smiles don’t represent who I am or how my term has been.
I suffer from anxiety and depression, which has meant spending large parts of my term in bed crying, watching rom coms, and avoiding social occasions and lectures. This does not make for good Instagram content, so it’s conveniently left out of the story my feed tells. The life people see of concerts and parties is real and it’s amazing, but it’s not the whole truth.
I genuinely feel better about myself when scrolling through the selected photos on this site, even though I’ve airbrushed out my mental health issues in the same way I used to blur out my spots. No one has a life without mental struggle, yet social media wouldn’t let you believe that. Some of the strongest, kindest and funniest people I know have struggled with their mental health in some way.
Mental health problems are not a weakness, they are simply a fact of life. Why not use the new year as a chance to challenge your view on mental health? Speak to someone you love about it and ask them if they’re okay – it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done.”
Typing the post was easy, but hitting share was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not only was I scared to be so honest about what I’d been through to so many people all at once, but I was cautious of striking the right chord with people.
Thankfully, this post seemed to get something right. My close friends and family were, as always, extremely supportive and loving, but what struck me most were the responses from places I didn’t expect: a phone call from a friend I’d last heard from in 2016, a text from a course mate I usually only debate Economic History with, and a direct message from someone I’d never met. All of these people were keen to share their stories and opinions, regardless of personal closeness.
Sharing, it seems, encourages sharing. So that’s the aim of this blog. Over the next term, I hope to share more of my own experiences, but crucially those of others from LSE, in the hopes that their stories will resonate with those that read it. This blog doesn’t claim to be scientific, in fact I’ve avoided using statistics here on purpose (if you’re like me and you can’t live without data here’s a good website.) However, I hope that honesty alone is a good enough place to start.
If sharing begets sharing, then this blog aims to be a starting point for many conversations about mental health, and the difficulty of dealing with the high-pressure environment we live in.
“I want LSE to open up about mental health,” I say. Well this is a start.
If you are struggling with your mental health, LSE has a number of resources available to help you. Visit https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/student-wellbeing/mental-health-support for more information.
If you require urgent support, the Samaritans offer free and confidential support UK-wide on 116 123.