Starting uni is a pretty daunting thing. There’s a lot to deal with, it could be anything from moving out for the first time, a new city and a whole new bunch of people; it’s a lot to digest for anyone, let alone someone who perhaps suffers with mental health difficulties.
My university (Sheffield Hallam) were very quick when it came to picking up that I had a history with anxiety, depression and OCD. I disclosed this information in a form when sorting out a lot of my admin before I started. I understand a lot of people do not like to include this information, and that’s absolutely fine, however, you will never be discriminated because of your mental health and any information you do enclose SHOULD be kept completely confidential. I’m not sure how this works for every single university in the country, but I’m pretty sure there is a similar system in place to pick up certain things you disclose.
Hallam were great in providing support before I had even started my course. I was given a 2 hour meeting about everything that was available to me, everything from a disabled student allowance, a mentor, a counsellor, a learning contract…the list went on and on. Part of me felt I wasn’t deserving enough to receive all of this help, but I remembered, I’m paying £9000 to be here!
Disabled Student Allowances
I think when people read the phrase above, you imagine money going to those really in need; perhaps those in a wheelchair or suffering with mobility issues. When I was offered this, I really didn’t feel like I could accept it. I felt that there was someone out there who was much more in need of this funding. I was assured by a student services worker that mental health problems fall under the criteria and are just as important. Students who suffer with dyslexia and other learning difficulties are also entitled to funding.
I was quite curious in the beginning of the application process – I had to give details of my mental health conditions and fill out a pretty lengthy form which I then sent off for approval. The benefits of this were absolutely incredible.
I was given a lot of equipment to aid my studying, I felt like I hadn’t deserved any of this but when my delivery arrived of equipment, I was re-assured that there are many students who receive this extra help, no matter how major or minor the issue. I was given a printer/scanner with my ink and paper paid for (to a certain extent!) – this was so that, in the event of a bad panic attack, or if I just couldn’t feel I could go in – I would be able to print off any resources I missed out on from my room without having to go to the library.
I was also given a voice recorder and microphone which were for lectures – in case I had to leave the room, I could leave the device recording and not worry about missing any important information.
While none of this can ‘cure’ me, it’s a great help and has been my safety net – just to know I’ve got all this in place for me made me feel a lot better about starting university.
I’m pretty sure every university has a student services or wellbeing desk/centre. For me, this was my first port of call when it came to getting in touch with my tutors before I had started the course. One of my biggest worries was that they weren’t aware of my problems, and if I had to leave the room with anxiety, panic attack etc, they would question me, think I’m rude etc – which would never be the case! I think it’s helpful also knowing that they know. Also, if you need an extension due to your mental health difficulties, student services can help you arrange this.
Most university student services offer a range of services, like counselling, mentoring etc – check your universities website.
Speak to your tutors!
I was able to get my course leaders name before I started and I dropped him an email letting him know I was incredibly nervous and worried about starting university without any of my tutors knowing what I was like. I had a meeting with my course leader and discussed everything; he was very understanding and still is to this day! Forget this image of tutors being cold and there to teach only, mine have been super helping me out where I need it.
It’s safe to say…not all tutors will get it. I’ve certainly had this experience. Some completely understand and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, for others it wont quite click. I think this is the same no matter the establishment, school, work etc. I had one tutor who sat me down and asked me if I thought I could do my degree as it was very ‘social’ and I suffer with social anxiety. I was a little disappointed that this was even said…however, like I said, not everyone gets it! Stick to those who do.
Save time for yourself.
If living away from home made me realise anything, it was that I seriously needed my ‘me time’! I loved living with other people, most of the time, however I would often feel so drained after university that I needed nothing more than my bed, netflix and some chicken nuggets! Do what chills you out, you have to look after that big ol’ mind of yours!
I used to find nights out especially difficult, to be honest, I still do! I struggle to be in such a cramped, hot, space. Nightlife is a HUGE part of uni, and this always worried me that I wasn’t the party animal I thought I would have to be to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out, but sometimes it can get a bit too much in a club. I love going to bars and pubs as I find thats a lot more chilled out, but I always feel like I’ve got hundreds of eyes watching me in clubs – I usually avoid them now. But if I do go clubbing, I like to escape to the smoking area for a bit of ‘fresh’ air…Corp – I’m talking about you!