Being a student with mental health problems can be quite a contradictory experience. On one hand some can feel quite deserted, especially during busy parts of the year like Christmas and the final few weeks of the second semester when you are nearing the end of the academic year. But you can also feel very supported. But what’s my experience?
I had to get my formal diagnosis before I could move forward with putting disability plans in place at university. Throughout this process I felt like I was the only one with mental health problems. I felt like no-one else around me was experiencing what I was. I felt stigmatised for a number of months by various people all because I had health anxiety, social anxiety and OCD.
Once I got my diagnosis the light was switched on and I was suddenly supported. The wheels were in motion once I’d “proved” that I had mental health problems. I had to legitimise what was going on in my head. It’s real and I knew it was – I just had to show that it was to get support.
After my support was put in place everything was okay – but now I’ve been deserted. My disability support advisor has retired and now I have no-one formal to support me. I’ll hopefully be getting things sorted for the second year of my degree with another person who’ll have to get to know me all over again.
As well as this as I said above you can often feel deserted during busy times – but that’s expected. During the busy times at university there is support but sometimes you want to talk to peers who understand. But these peers are also busy too exactly like you are. You may feel like you don’t want to bother them.
But here’s where my experience has been different.
I feel supported by my peers at these busy times. Everyone is going through the same thing and that provides me with comfort. Everyone else is busy and may be anxious which comforting for me in a weird and unselfish way. During the final few weeks of the first year of my journalism degree I was very busy and everyone else was too but everyone was really supportive. Everyone pulled together and we got each other through.
Even with experience you can still get overwhelmed. It didn’t happen to me this year as I was organised but it can happen!
There will be up and down times as a student even if you don’t have mental health problems.
It is normal to feel “up-and-down” but if you feel that you are getting down a lot there is help out there, both within your college or university and externally through various organisations.
Don’t suffer in silence and feel deserted, talk about it and get support.