Do you ever find your chest tightening with the idea of coming to tutorials? Are you losing sleep over a never-ending reading list? Maybe you’ve stayed up all night, stressing about how best to set boundaries with your messy new roommates, or binging The Last Of Us to avoid the overwhelming pressure of assessments. Or you might be struggling to eat healthy meals and keep on top of simple house chores like washing dishes and making your bed, clothes and fast-food wrappers slowly pilling up in the edges of your room. Whatever the case, experiencing stress, anxiety, and isolation while at university is not unusual.
Data indicates almost 40% of young people have experienced mental ill-health at some point in their lives, and around 25% of university students will experience mental ill-health while studying. In fact, the very nature of the university experience has the potential to increase the risk of mental health issues: financial problems, lack of sleep, complicated living situations, separation from family and friends, and pressure to do well academically can all contribute to negatively affecting your mental health.
Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to. An objective third party, who can listen and give you advice (if that’s what you’re looking for), or just someone who can relate to what you’re going through. If you can’t afford a therapist, and you’re not sure where to start, maybe Linkmate is the right choice for you.
Linkmate is a peer-to-peer mental health support network. The platform connects members with a Mate, someone you can go to for emotional support and community connection. And the best part is you can chat through their in-house messenger system – you don’t have to talk over Zoom or in person.
I gave Linkmate a try earlier in the year, and I found the platform to be really simple to use and easy to navigate. When you first sign up, you’re prompted to answer a few get-to-know-you questions. This helps you to find a Mate who shares some of your interests, and makes the process of choosing someone to match with a little easier.
You can narrow down your search criteria to a specific age range or gender, or leave both sections open to all. Then, you select what kind of topics you would like to talk about: honestly, I was a little overwhelmed by the choices, so I just selected ‘study’. Other topics include divorce, hopelessness, loneliness, unemployment, and eating.
Then the options filter down into Mates who would match your criteria. You can browse their profile, and read about their life and reasons for becoming a Mate. And if they sound like someone you would like to talk to, you can send them a request. I read through all the profiles, and requested a chat with two different people. One person responded to me on the same day!
“It was very helpful as it allowed me to get things off my chest without being judged or treated differently because of it. Everyone was really supportive and welcoming.” – Maggie
“I don’t feel pressured to share anything that makes me feel uncomfortable and it’s just nice to have a yarn. I also actually really love the daily affirmations and the check-in tool that you can do yourself. It just gives me a little reminder to be kind to myself!” – Tim
If you have a passion for helping people, maybe you should consider becoming a Mate. By sharing your own story, you can become a mental health advocate, inspire hope in others and maybe even find a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
“I love being there for members when they need it, whatever the reason. It’s an honour to be trusted by someone to support them through a bad day, or to be a sounding board for what’s going on in their life, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to help members recognise and celebrate their achievements, big and small.” – Elese
Students can get started using Linkmate here or find out more information about the platform here.
If you’re struggling with your mental health and you’re not sure if Linkmate is the right program for you, check out the QUT Student Guild mental health support services for more options. Although the Linkmate app provides a safe space for genuine connection and companionship, the platform does not replace care from a mental health professional.