Reagan McVeigh has just started their second year studying Welsh and Creative Writing at Cardiff University. As an ambassador for the Coleg Cymraeg, Reagan has had numerous opportunities to discuss issues around LGBTQ+ and mental health through the medium of Welsh, topics that are very close to their heart. Recently in the Coleg Cymraeg pavilion at the National Eisteddfod, they were part of a discussion panel, 'Mental Health and Me' which provided a platform for students and experts to discuss the subject openly.
On World Mental Health day, here is a blog written by Reagan reflecting on their first year at university and as a Coleg Cymraeg ambassador.
It is not uncommon for university students to suffer from mental health problems because moving from their home to university and living alone for the first time is a big change. The increase in stress and responsibilities is a lot to deal with, and can be worse for individuals who have been suffering from mental health issues before university.
Since starting university, I'm spending more time alone and so I've had to learn to deal with my emotions and thoughts in a new way.
I still enjoy university: I've made new friends and have started working, I'm studying a subject I enjoy and I've had new experiences. There are good and bad elements that come with any change in your life, and it's important to have a support system around you, take time for yourself, and make an effort to open up and ask for help when needed.
I've been open with my family and friends for a long time, which helps me cope. If we don't make an effort to talk to each other, and be open and honest about our problems, there's no way for anything to get better. I only recently started going to see a therapist because I felt guilty for asking for professional help. For some reason, I felt that others were in worse situations and so I would waste their time. I realize now that I need to ditch this mindset, and accept that I am worthy to receive help.
It was interesting to hear the views of other students who are in the same position as me during a discussion panel at the Eisteddfod organised by the Coleg Cymraeg. We expressed our views on the importance of being able to communicate and share emotions in the language you are most comfortable in because explaining your feelings can be difficult. It is therefore important to encourage more Welsh speakers to pursue a career in the field and to encourage them to take courses through the medium of Welsh or bilingually in order to have more therapists and counsellors who can give service through the medium of Welsh. This is why the work of the Coleg Cymraeg developing Welsh language provision in the universities is so important.
It would be easy to read my blog and see it as an empty gesture, but opening up is not easy. It's an important step to start your journey to improve your mental health. My advice to anyone is to be open to saying when something is difficult. There's no shame in that. Without talking and without asking for help, it's very difficult for anything to improve.