Each week, we interview someone from around Adelaide who might be helpful during your time as an international student. This week’s guest:
Dr Ben Chandler
Student Health & Wellbeing Project Officer
Let’s talk a bit about Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which is currently on. What’s the purpose of it?
It’s just saying: your mental health is something you should think about, and you can take care of it just like you take care of your physical health. If you do have problems – just like you’d go to the doctor if you were physically unwell – if you’re experiencing mental health difficulties, there are people you can see to get some help. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There’s also a Wellbeing Survey during MHAW, and by entering you can go into the draw to win an iPad. We ask things like “how much do you think about your wellbeing”, and “how much do you worry about your wellbeing?” We use those responses to help guide our work in Student Health & Wellbeing.
Why is this health and wellbeing important for students?
A very good question! It’s important because we know from the research that mental health problems and university students go together all too well, unfortunately. We know that most mental health conditions have their first onset by the age of 25 – which is the student age group.
“Getting enough sleep will make a world of difference to your overall concentration, to your overall wellbeing, to your health; you’ll get sick less, and recover quicker”
Also, about one in four people in this age group experience mental health difficulties, or suffer a period of mental ill health. We know that this has a really negative impact on students’ experiences, not just at university, but also in general.
For a lot of students – particularly international students – they’re living away from home for the first time, and might not be used to feeding themselves. So diet plays a big part of health and wellbeing. We also know that coming off being a teenager, sleep patterns can be messed up. That’s normal, if anyone is experiencing that – because teenagers have a very different sleep pattern than to children or adults.
So there’s a whole a whole bunch of stuff happening during this time of your life as a student.
A perfect storm.
A perfect storm. So what we try to do is equip students with the tools they need to develop healthy behaviours.
And a lot of those resources and tools are available online?
Absolutely. And we’re always looking for new ways to reach students – so if any students have ideas about that, please let me know!
What kinds of things can students do generally in their life to improve their health & wellbeing?
That’s a great question. And you know what? People never ask me this question – I’m glad you asked, because there are a couple of really simple things you can do that will have a massive impact on your wellbeing.
Tip number one: get enough sleep. That will make a world of difference to your overall concentration, to your overall wellbeing, to your health; you’ll get sick less, and recover quicker.
And what do you classify as “enough” sleep?
And that’s whatever you need to feel refreshed the next day – the stats tell us that’s around seven to nine hours per night. Really, whatever works for you. 2% of the population can function on less than seven hours, and about 2%-5% that need more than nine hours.
To do that, set yourself a bed time and stick do it. Don’t do anything in your bed besides sex and sleep. Try to switch off electric devices an hour before going to bed. If you really need to study before bed, use a device that can eliminate blue light. And if you’re really having trouble going to sleep, have a hot shower half an hour before going to bed.
The next tip is to try to move a little bit more. It doesn’t have to be exercise, you don’t have to join a gym (though you can if you want to) – just move a bit more. However much you’re moving now, just move a little more. That’s all.
The last tip is to try to eat enough fruit and vegetables. You can check out the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, which have it all spelled out for you, in easy to follow directions. But don’t stress too much about the exercise or food – they’re great to do, but sleep should be your number one priority.
Read more about Student Health & Wellbeing, and see their online resources, on the website.