News flash: almost half of all Australians experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime – most likely anxiety and/or depression. In fact, four out of every five Australian uni students describe feeling stressed and anxious. Relationship breakups. Academic stress. Loneliness. Financial difficulties. Family struggles. Drugs and alcohol problems. When everyday struggles are compounded by anxiety or depression, it can feel like the bad news just keeps piling up. But here’s some good news: both conditions are common enough that they’re diagnosable and treatable. Better yet, there are loads of support networks and strategies available to help you manage the tough times, and come back even stronger. And though anxiety and depression often walk hand-in-hand, when you get to know them, they’re entirely different beasts. Here we break down the symptoms and outline the best ways to get help.

A multi-headed beast named 'Anxiety'

University days can be a pressure cooker of stress and worry. The pressure of deadlines and exams can often be compounded by uni transition stresses – like the challenge of living away from home for the first time, or the strain of being strapped for cash, or couch surfing. And, you see, we can predict your future. Your career will, at times, also be stressful. There are bills, then debts, mortgages. There will be times you feel exhilarated by friends and family and then sometimes, let down. Cars break. You will be threatened by natural disasters, random drunk people, swooping magpies…

But don’t worry, you’re not alone. All of these stresses can, and most likely will, happen to everyone. When you’re well prepared to navigate these types of curveballs, you can quickly move on once the threat has passed. But when relentless worry affects your ability to cope with the day-to-day, you – alongside a quarter of all Australians – may be experiencing one of several forms of anxiety.

Anxiety warning signs:

  • Unexplained feelings of panic, fear, worry or impending doom
  • Rapid breathing and/or increased heart rate
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Restlessness
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Avoiding stressful situations in your work, study or social life.

Don’t sweat it, it’s more common than you think

From general and incessant worry about virtually anything, to specific phobias like air travel, or fear of social humiliation – anxiety looks and feels very different from person to person. And though it’s unlikely your anxiety condition is caused by any single thing, there are a number of factors to be aware of. A family history of mental health issues. Chronic stress: from work, living or relationship circumstances. Post-traumatic stress. Hypertension and heart disease. Asthma. Diabetes. Substance abuse. Depression. Anxiety disorders don’t discriminate. To measure your own experiences, try this simple and 100% confidential checklist.

An unwelcome visitor named 'Depression'

Melancholy, woe, sorrow, sadness – just watch the news, we’re surrounded by this stuff daily. Hourly, even. But if you are experiencing regular feelings of hopelessness and despair, you may be one of a million Australians who experience depression this year.

Common signs of depression:

  • Feeling as described above for more than two weeks
  • Losing interest in the things you enjoy
  • Feeling worthless, guilty or overwhelmed
  • Feeling pessimistic about yourself, the world and the future
  • Problems with concentration, decision making, and memory
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Feeling exhausted and unmotivated
  • Trouble sleeping and dramatic changes in eating habits
  • Avoiding social events and time with friends and family
  • Difficulty completing tasks and meeting deadlines
  • Increased alcohol or drug consumption
  • Generally combative, irritable and cranky.

When a bad mood becomes a bad week, month or year

As you can see, many symptoms of depression – in isolation – could be shrugged off as a crappy day. But when you or someone you care about is experiencing several of these symptoms at once and/or over a prolonged period of time, the burden can feel overwhelming. Checking in with yourself, or with someone you think may be struggling, is a great first step towards getting on top of depression. Start with this simple and 100% confidential checklist. From here you can talk to one of our on-campus counsellors or GPs about how you scored, and work out a best course of action.

Find yourself again: Australia’s support networks are millions-strong

Lifestyle management strategies, online e-therapies, psychological counselling, hypnotherapy, behavioural changes, exercise, medication – with millions of Australians experiencing anxiety and depression every year, the range of management strategies and support services is ever-growing. And from implementing mindfulness techniques to improving diet, getting fit and enhancing sleep, the benefits will spill over into every other aspect of your life.

Whether you or a loved one is feeling a little out of sorts, or you’re close to the edge of despair, there are treatment options to fit. A chat with one of our on-campus mental health professionals is your first step towards owning your mental health.

Did you know?

Swinburne offers on-site health services and fully confidential counselling. To book a free counseling session, simply call 9214 8483, register and make an appointment or come up to Level 4, GS building and we can help you from there. You'll need your student ID, Medicare card or OSHC health insurance details and your Centrelink Health Care Card if you have one.

Full list of health services
Are you or someone you know in immediate risk or danger?

Contact emergency services immediately: 000
Other crisis support services include:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467