"It makes the world of difference to have someone listen to you and care for you."
My name is Mervyn, I am from Hong Kong, and I am studying at the University of Cambridge.
My mental health took a drastic hit at the beginning of the pandemic. Anxiety that probably arose from the virus spilled over into other parts of my life. I was consistently downcast and didn’t have energy for much, including talking to friends.
I was initially reluctant to get professional help – I thought I could get better just by ‘thinking differently’ – but when I realised I was breaking down without reason, I finally agreed to see a psychiatrist. With help from her, and support from friends and family, my mood gradually improved.
Supportive Friends and Family
It was wonderful to have plenty of friends in Cambridge, both in church and in the Christian Union I am a part of, so I knew I wasn’t alone if I needed help.
This was especially reassuring when the pandemic complicated travel plans. I knew that even if I couldn’t fly back home (and flights were banned at one point!), someone could put me up, and I wouldn’t find myself with nowhere to stay.
I think the hardest part was knowing that my family were always worried about me, because they were several thousand miles away and wouldn’t be able to offer much help if something went wrong.
My Advice to Other Students
I want to encourage other students who are struggling with mental health. Talk to a friend or family member, even if you feel like you just want to be alone. It can be just a few words to let them know you are struggling; it makes the world of difference to have someone listen to you and care for you.
Also, as I am a Christian, I suggest praying and reading the Bible, because I believe God cares for you deeply. I found the Psalms in the Bible very helpful, as they are full of people in deep anguish seeking help. Psalm 13 shows hope amidst pain, which encouraged me deeply. Often, if I didn’t know what to pray, the Psalms would help me.
Watch Our Wellbeing Videos
Friends International have recently launched a series of videos, to support international students and their mental health.
The videos are short and fun and will take you through the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, which is also endorsed by the NHS.
All the videos can be found for free on the Friends International app.