Student Minds: Finding happiness in unlikely places

Elsa Maishman 29 April 2015

Dealing with depression is hard, draining, and horrible: all mental health issues are. While mental health comes in a variety of forms and faces, 20–26 April is depression awareness week, and it’s time we had a chat. Its okay not to be okay, it happens to all of us. In severe cases we term this depression. 80,000 young people a year are clinically diagnosed, but the situation is far from black and white. Thousands, possibly tens or hundreds of thousands more are suffering.

There is no scan or test to reveal the issue, no quick fix. It’s hard to realise you have a problem, and even harder to move forward. Wanting to cry all the time for no reason is frustrating and knackering, and at times, seems never-ending. Being told to “get over it” won’t help, but then neither will the overly sympathetic smile and condescending tone. Understanding is the key. Depression is a disease and so should be treated as such, without forgetting that someone with depression is still the same person. Most importantly of all, we need to build an environment in which people understand and respect mental illness, helping people to be open without fear of judgement or embarrassment.

Accepting depression is a vital step towards helping yourself. For me and many others, finding happiness in small places was just the start. A great night with friends, a walk along the backs, the light show on Kings Parade (with free fudge samples). No matter how big or small, they can help to overcome the negative perceptions depression brings. Another pair of eyes can often spot what yours cannot, and talking to people about issues can help share the burden and make you realise that life isn’t so bad. Student Minds Cambridge is trying to do just that. It promotes positive, open discussion of mental health and offers resources to those looking for support. Of course, there is no easy way to ‘‘get over’’ depression. But with a little more understanding, acceptance and hope, we can pursue our own version of happiness.