Remember when you first started university? There were likely many things you had to adjust to in order to succeed (and even just to get by). Just like coming to university was a big life transition, so is getting ready to leave. Not only do you have to get through this final year, you also have to begin thinking about “life after uni”. It can be hectic finishing up your final year, so it’s important to look after your health, both physically and mentally.
Drug and Alcohol Awareness
Although the concept of drugs and alcohol may be new to you, it is often good to be reminded of a few facts.
A drug is any chemical compound or substance that can alter the structure or function of the body.
Lets look at the most widely available and used drugs in our culture, alcohol.
People drink alcohol for many reasons, and this in itself is not usually problematic. In fact, alcohol is a part of the culture in which we live. Problems generally arise when people drink because they are bored, feel under pressure, are trying to escape emotional pain or make themselves feel better, or succumb to peer pressure.
What’s considered a “safe” drinking level?
The Australian Alcohol Guidelines are designed to give people an indication of the limits of alcohol consumption that are associated with an increasing risk to health and social well-being. The goal is to provide people with some knowledge to minimise the risk of alcohol-related harm occurring.
Due to the different ways that alcohol can affect people, there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. People choosing to drink must realise that there will always be some risk to their health and social well-being. The more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk. However, there are ways to minimise the risks.
Ways to minimise the risks from alcohol consumption
Even if you don’t have a problem with alcohol, it can still be problematic at times. For example, as you finish your degree you may be looking forward to celebrating with your friends. You don’t want to ruin all your hard work by doing something you will regret, so remember these tips to ensure you have a fun and safe time as you celebrate your achievement:
- Don’t try to keep up with other drinkers.
- Eat before drinking.
- Have a glass of water or soft drink to quench your thirst before having the first alcoholic drink.
- Drink water or other non-alcoholic drinks in between drinks.
- Eat while you're drinking - but not salty foods, as they make you drink more.
- Try low-alcohol drinks.
- Don't let other people top up your drinks - and finish one before starting another.
- Don't put alcohol or drugs in other people's drinks or leave your drink where this can happen to you.
How do you know if you have an alcohol problem?
It is hard to say exactly what an 'alcohol problem' is. However, the most commonly accepted definition is when drinking alcohol causes problems in a person's life and the lives of their family and friends.
Can you identify with any of these?
- drinking leading to arguments and fights
- not getting uni assignments completed due to drinking
- problems at work (or uni) like being late not turning up for work (or class) because of being drunk or hung-over
- money worries because of the amount spent on alcohol
- being arrested for drink-driving, having drink-driving fines to pay, loss of driver's licence, and /or going to jail
- health problems or injuries arising from alcohol consumption
It is almost certain that you have seen or heard of people using illegal drugs during your time at University. You may have even done so as well. Many people view cannabis and so-called party drugs (such as ecstasy) as harmless; but for some people this is not the case. In addition to being illegal, these drugs can have long lasting negative effects. If you notice you are having problems with study/work, relationships, physical/mental health, legal and/or money issues due to your drug use, please seek professional help.
Where do I get more information and help?
- CSU Counselling Service
- Community Health Centre in your local area
Is an online service where you can communicate with a professional counsellor about an alcohol or drug related concern. This is a free service for anyone seeking help with their own drug use or the drug use of a family member, relative or friend. CounsellingOnline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across Australia. You can either register for this service, or use it anonymously.
Clrearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention. Their information page about alcohol includes its affects, withdrawal and treatment.
Reach Out is a web based service that provides information, support and interactive features to help young people get through tough times. The information page provided by Reach Out! details the effects of alcohol.
Is a community based service for people aged 12 - 25 and their families. Headspace provides help for issues including health, education, work, mental health and drug & alcohol use.
Georgie Cannon - Psychologist, NSW Central West Headspace
"Mental health problems are very common amongst university students. Statistics indicate that between 1 in 4 people between 12 and 25 will experience mental health problems"
You're not alone - Listen to Georgie's advice
Mental health issues
According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is a state of emotional and social well-being in which a person can fulfil his or her abilities, cope with normal stresses of life, work productively or fruitfully and be able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Problems with mental health can affect our feelings, thoughts and actions as well as our performance and enjoyment in a range of life areas (e.g. school, work and relationships). It is important to note that mental health problems are common health complaints and we are all affected to some degree over the course of life. They are usually understandable reactions to personal and social problems and are not too severe or long lasting.
As you complete your final subjects and begin job seeking, you may be filled with excitement and anticipation, but you may also notice an increase in such things such as stress, worrying about the future and sadness about leaving university. This is to be expected as you negotiate the transition from being a university student to entering the workforce as a graduate. So, whilst some changes in thoughts/feelings and possibly behaviours are to be expected, if symptoms persist or are significantly negatively impacting on your functioning, professional assistance is recommended.
Libby Douglas - Lecturer- School of Social Sciences & Liberal Studies
"As a lecturer at CSU I have come across allot of students who suffer from Mental Health problems..."
You're not alone - Listen to Libby's advice
Depression and Anxiety
Two of the most common kinds of mental ill-health are depression and anxiety. These are temporary changes in behaviour or signs of distress that can occur in healthy individuals for all sorts of reasons, including adjusting to major life changes (eg: coming to/leaving Uni), grief/loss, separation/ relationship break up, drug or alcohol use and reacting to stress.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest and participation in activities that are usually pleasurable
- Changes in mood – persistently feeling numb, hopeless, worthless or guilty for example
- Changes in eating habits (either an increase or decrease in food intake) and changes in sleeping patterns
- Increased irritability and frustration
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
- Being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously)
- Slowing down of thoughts and actions.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Physical symptoms such as palpitations, tremulousness, muscle tension, lethargy, difficulty breathing
- Feeling very worried; unable to stop worrying
- Feeling restless, irritable, having difficulty concentrating
- Finding it difficult to do everyday activities due to the symptoms above
- Having trouble sleeping (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)
If you are concerned about possible symptoms of depression and anxiety you may be experiencing, it is recommended you speak to a health professional (your General Practitioner is a good place to start). This online assessment will give an indication as to the seriousness of your symptoms.
Some facts about Mental Health
- One out of every five Australians (about 20%) will experience some form of mental illness each year. Three out of every hundred Australians (about 3%) will be seriously affected.
- Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental disorders experienced by Australians. Depression alone is predicted to be one of the world’s largest health problems by 2020.
- Nearly one in ten Australians will experience some type of anxiety disorder each year – around one in twelve women and one in eight men. One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage of their lives.
- Around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year. On average, one in five people will experience depression in their lives; one in four females and one in six males.
- Approximately two thirds of people with a mental illness do not receive any treatment in any 12 month period.
Reference: Mental Health Council of Australia
Depression and anxiety are treatable. However, people often try to cope without professional help for as long as they can. This can be due to a number of reasons including lack of time, denial of severity or impact of symptoms, embarrassment, lack of community resources/not knowing where to access resources.
Sometimes self help strategies are sufficient in overcoming symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. (In fact, these strategies will enhance your quality of life even if everything is going “okay”). Strategies will often focus on:
- Increasing strategies to cope with stress
- Identifying and challenging negative thoughts
- Developing effective problem solving skills
- Activity scheduling
There is a great deal of useful information about mental health on the internet. Below are links to just a few reputable websites:
Anxiety and uni performance
A topic relevant to many university students is test (or exam) anxiety. Most students feel nervous before taking a test or an exam, and a certain amount of stress often helps to motivate people to study and prepare. Test anxiety, on the other hand, can cause some students so much distress that their academic performance is seriously affected.
If this sounds like you, check out information on our Student Services website targeting stress (specifically about exam stress)
Some strategies that assist students to manage test anxiety include:
- Preparing well for the exam, including avoiding procrastination and the need to cram. Check out the Learning Skills website for effective study techniques.
- Using relaxation techniques, including breathing relaxation, during the exam if anxiety symptoms emerge.
- Recognising and challenging negative thinking or excessive worry about the exam and your potential performance.
- Using effective problem-solving strategies.
- Setting and working towards achievable study goals.
If you require immediate assistance for crisis situations
- Attend your local hospital
- Call 000
- Call Lifeline 13 11 14 (available 24 hours)