Editorial: Issue 3

Louise Ashwell and Dominic Kelly 17 October 2013

Man up. Snap out of it. Pull yourself together.

In a week, where mental health services in Cambridge have been judged in need of urgent attention and students disclose their negative experiences of the university welfare system, we would do better to take a step back. We should explore why we students are using these statements about ourselves in the first place, and why it is that we have judged our mental states to be so lacking.

Mental health problems are more common among young people than any other age group in the general population. The trials and tribulations of student life can add stress to an already tricky period of personal development.

And as anyone who’s ever stepped past a Porters’ Lodge for just a few minutes knows instantly, this institution poses its own particular set of challenges.

Cambridge is full of ambitious hyper-perfectionists and while such traits are part of what cause us to strive for ever greater academic success and personal fulfilment, failing to reach the dizzying heights of our contemporaries can often set us further on the path of self-loathing and disappointment.

The social stigma surrounding mental health is already enormous and the pressures we place on ourselves here mean that we fear others will consider our problems an indication of laziness, rebellion, or failure. This guilt, although unsurprising given the amount such conversation has historically been oppressed, is unhealthy and unhelpful.

The University provides a wealth of services for when the going gets tough, but the new Cambridge Speaks Its Mind campaign reveals that too often within its welfare system, students are faced with miscomprehension and disinterest.

We applaud any effort to highlight such important issues – they are as essential now as they have ever been. This is part of our problem, if others can’t find empathy for us, how are we able to find it for ourselves in our very lowest moments?

So remember that neither your DoS, nor the genius who lives across the hall will be as sorted as you may think they are. Accept your limitations. There are people there for you. Make sure that you’re one of them.

Be kind on yourselves.