Taking GCSEs and A-levels feels like climbing Everest, then when you reach the peak and get into university, life is one big party.
For many people, arriving at uni is when the hard journey begins, especially without the support they may have had as an under-18, and they are often left to flounder.
Currently, one-third of students who drop out of their course cite mental health issues as the reason, leaving thousands of young people at risk each year of not reaching their full potential.
Yet one young woman is on a mission to put student mental health under the spotlight and finally give it the recognition it deserves so that she can prevent uni dropouts.
Hannah Walton is turning the tide with The One/Third Project, which aims to ensure students are well-equipped to balance both their mental health and their studies so they can build resilience and improve their prospects in further education and employment.
With a focus on students aged 16-21, Hannah hopes to help people in particular who have suffered disruption or disadvantage during their education.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Hannah told us about her own experiences growing up and what inspired her to create her trailblazing initiative.
Hannah said: “Education had always been an up-and-down struggle for me, from primary school age. Even though I was academic and very willing to learn beyond lessons, my mental health worsened and contributed to me making the difficult decision to leave school at 14.
“I taught myself my GCSEs through revision textbooks as my school offered me little to no support, luckily I scrapped grades BCDD in English, Maths and Double Science.
“After my results were back, I had some decisions to make about my future. I tried college, apprenticeships, and employment, but had no success due to my existing health issues and financial worries. So, online distance learning became my education saviour.
“I started teaching myself through online providers and resources, leading to qualifications that got me into university to study Law with Criminology.”
Regrettably, due to ongoing health issues, Hannah couldn’t stay at university and left during the first term. Yet the experience became bittersweet… as it led to The One/Third Project.
When she discovered just how many students were dropping out of university due to mental health reasons, it resonated with Hannah’s personal experiences.
Now, she wants to use what she has learned to create a force for positive change.
Students who sign up for her #BeyondCurriculum programme gain access to mentoring sessions with a student wellbeing mentor; unlimited and ongoing support; workshops that look at employability, educational and wellbeing skills; events including awards and meet-ups (virtually); and social action projects that are youth-led and tackle current social issues.
Hannah also strives to paint a clearer picture of the issues that young people face today, saying it is not only about exam stress and academic expectations.
She said: “Different things affect people in different ways, but some of the more common issues can be anything from financial worries to relationships and difficulties at home or learning difficulties and mental health conditions that may be impacting learning.
“Though things are beginning to improve, compared to the past decade, there’s still a long way to go to ensure students are able to access the correct support for them.”
Her primary goal is to ensure people recognise that everyone has a mental health – even if they cope well and appear to not have any problems.
Hannah concluded: “Anyone can struggle at any point in their life. It’s so important to take care of yourself, even if you believe you have good mental health overall.
“If I had been presented with opportunities related to subjects I enjoyed or activities I wanted to try, I may not have been so disengaged resulting in my leaving school early.
“Now, I take care of myself on good or bad or in-between days by having a well-deserved nap (or two); watching a series on Netflix; having a bath or shower to make sure I wake up and am taking care of my hygiene; and I also enjoy baking, mainly because the end result is cake!”
To sign up, just click here: The One/Third Project.