Being a Healthy Harold!
Your health, safety and happiness should be major priorities for you in this year of change. It’s important for you to be well aware of how you’re feeling – physically, emotionally and mentally, who to go to and where to find them if you need help, and how to ask for help.
Mental wellbeing and health of its students is a top priority for a university. Your uni will have both physical support services, as well as online and phone support that might better suit your needs. These services are there for you to use, and they have heard and seen everything a uni student could bring them, so there is no reason to be shy, embarrassed or scared. It is your right to use these services – so use them!
Your uni will most likely have a health clinic on site, but it never hurts to know what services are around you. You can ask student services what health services are they can recommend to you off campus, or you can google for a doctor, dentist or whoever near you.
A good question you should have at the front of mind when you call them – “do you bulk bill?” or “is this service covered by bulk billing?”.
Bulk billing is a payment option under the Medicare system of universal health insurance in Australia. It can cover a prescribed range of health services as listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule, at the discretion of the health service provider. This means you won’t pay a cent to see the doctor or nurse.
Also, remember to speak up – if you would prefer a male or female doctor, say so. The receptionists and nurses are more than used to this request.
Your health is important so be proactive with it, if you aren’t feeling well, book an appointment, if you have a tooth ache book an appointment. You’re adulting now, remember!
Your mental health and wellbeing is important. It is vital you are aware of who you are, how you feel and how to ask for help – no matter if the issue is big or small. You can ask family and friends to help you, ask them to listen or ask them to come with you to the doctor.
If you would prefer to talk to someone you don’t know there are so many services there for you. On this page are just a few we have compiled.
Your university will also be able to guide you to the right person – they have services on site for you, counsellors, doctors and nurses. Your university will know who to guide you to when you are reaching out for help. There are some tips here about what you can expect.
- Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation assistsing young people aged 12–25 years. They have 55 centres across Australia and offer free services in areas such as general health, education and employment, mental health, alcohol and drugs. Call 1800 650 890.
- ReachOut Australia is a great resource for anyone feeling overwhelmed or needs to encouragement.
- The Black Dog Institute and My Compass are interactive, self-help websites which enable users to track and write about their moods, view information and tips on how to manage mild to moderate stress, anxiety and depression.
- Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call them on 13 11 14.
- Youthbeyondblue provides information and support for those affected by depression and anxiety. It’s also a great resource for carers or anyone wanting to support a friend or loved one. You can call them 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636.
- Sane Australia aims to help Australians affected by mental illness to lead a better life. Call the helpline on 1800 187 263.
- Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 25. Call 1800 55 1800.
- MoodGYM is an innovative, interactive web program designed to help people cope with depression.
- The Suicide Call Back Service is a 24/7, nationwide service that provides counselling to people 15 years and over who are suicidal, caring or supporting someone suicidal or bereaved by suicide. Call 1300 659 467.
Counselling and support
Counselling services can help with a range of academic or personal concerns. All universities have information on counselling services, many of which are free. We recommend you contact your uni’s student services centre to find out what they offer.
There is no shame in talking, and it is likely to make you feel better. Counsellors can offer you management strategies and advice, or just listen to you and your concerns and thoughts. All your consultations will be confidential.
Make sure you talk to your lecturers or tutors if you are feeling overwhelmed and need extra time and support to get your assignments done. You don’t need to share all your personal details, but if you are having trouble submitting work or attending classes, it might be better if they know what’s going on. They may recommend you talk to someone or know of a good service the university can offer you.
If you are worried about a fellow student be sure to ask them if they are OK. They might just need to talk to a familiar face and take some time out with you, BUT be aware it could be something deeper, and they might need your help to seek professional help.
Eating & sleeping
Food and rest are both vital to maintaining successful studies, and the fun social aspect of uni life. Even the seemingly invincible and highly social person needs to be fed and well rested!
Maintaining a healthy diet will help you balance study and play. Limit your caffeine and sugar and make sure you are eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables (fruit flavoured lollies don’t count!). Think salads, carrots and hummus, soups, stir frys, and so on. If you make an effort by eating the right foods you will feel more energetic and positive. Try to eat some healthy fats like avocado, nuts and cheese to help curb the sugar cravings.
Don’t overdo the alcohol, and avoid cigarettes and drugs. These things affect your moods and abilities to function properly.
Get enough sleep. Feeling tired increases stress, anger and frustration levels. Being tired and stressed also lowers your immunity levels and can lead to illness.
Here’s a few tips for sleeping better:
- Have a shower before bed to calm down and start the time away from your phone and electronics
- Turn your computer and other electronics off before you go to bed and switch your phone to night mode or “do not disturb” so your sleep isn’t interrupted by alerts
- Avoid looking at screens and devices while trying to get to sleep. Light actually blocks melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you fall asleep
- Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evenings
- Exercise daily
- Do a meditation exercise for a few minutes
Drinking & drug taking
Alcohol affects everyone differently so it’s important for you to find your limits and become aware of how you act when you have been consuming alcohol.
It’s good practice to know your limits, to be able to get yourself home without putting yourself or anyone else in danger is important. There is nothing wrong with knowing your limit and cutting yourself off.
One way to monitor your drinking is to know the standard measurement guide. This will allow you to make informed choices about what and how much you can drink.
Illicit drugs are illegal to consume, provide, sell or buy. It’s never a good idea to take something when you don’t really know what’s in it. Illicit drugs can be mixed with dangerous chemicals that can kill you.
- Never walk home from a night out by yourself! Make sure you have a safe method of getting home, which may mean budgeting enough money for a taxi.
- Shouting drinks can become expensive and be unsafe. Keep track of your own drinks.
- Drink spiking occurs when a drug is covertly put into someone’s drink. If you start to feel light headed or sick tell your friends immediately. And never leave your drink unattended.
- When driving the day after a big night, remember you could still be over the legal limit, particularly if you are a P-plater.
- Have a buddy system, particularly in O-Week. You will gain a close friend and stay safe.
- Keep $100 tucked away in your wallet or bank for emergency money.
Let's Talk about Sex
Your sexual health is an important part of your overall health if you are sexually active. If you are sexually active you need to know how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
You can visit student services to talk to a sexual health worker and visit www.sti.health.gov.au for more information.
Be honest and open with doctors and nurses, there is no shame in your sexual activity and they won’t judge you.
Knowing what consent is and why it’s important is crucial to any sexual relationship. Consent is when two people both agree to enter a sexual relationship or act.
No one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do and you can’t force anyone else to do something they are uncomfortable with.
You have the right to say no to any activity or act you don’t want to be involved in – this includes sex or sexual acts. Your body is yours and if you feel pressured or threatened you should speak up.
Life is all about balance, and even though you will need to study and work hard at university, you also need some downtime. Downtime is productive as it helps your brain and body work better by giving it a rest and time to absorb things.
Try going for a walk, watching a movie, joining a sports team or reading for pleasure. Close the laptop, put down your phone and give your mind a rest. You’ll be surprised that some of your most creative ideas can occur when you give yourself a break.
Stress management is different for everyone so find out what works for you, and if you need help doing this, never be afraid to ask friends or a counsellor.
Exercise helps you maintain your health and boosts your endorphin levels. Walk, swim, do yoga or take a class at the gym.
Your university or local gym will have student discounts. Take a gym for a road test before you commit with a short-term or casual pass. Make sure you understand the gym membership’s terms and conditions when you sign up so you only pay for what you want and don’t get locked into a long contract.
University is a great place to meet new people and forge new friendships. Join a sporting team or a university club, maybe a drama club or even a chocolate appreciation society. Getting involved gives you something else to think about and focus your attention on, other than just study.
Humans are social animals. Talking to people is good for us, especially if we are feeling sad, stressed, anxious, uneasy or depressed. You’re not alone, so call your family, have coffee with a friend, or see a counsellor if you’d prefer to talk anonymously or think you need professional help.
Another mood booster may be to call or get in contact with your school friends – yes you may all be located in different parts of the city, state or country, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t care about them and vice versa. Chatting or video calling them (using Facebook Messenger is free) is fun and easy, and will remind you that you are not in it alone.
Peer pressure is when you feel you have to do something because everyone else is, or because friends tell you to. It can apply to drinking, drugs, sex or any other behaviour.
Peer pressure can be hard to deal with because you don’t want to feel left out, but if something doesn’t feel right you should listen to yourself first and say no. True friends will respect your decisions. You need to remember to back yourself and be confident in your decisions and feelings.
Kids help line (advice for 16 to 25-year-olds) is a great resource if you need some advice on peer pressure. You can call them on 1800 55 1800 any time of the day.