I came to the University having very recently experienced my first episode of depression and extreme anxiety. In hindsight, I’d been living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder my whole life, but it had never been so extreme that I received a diagnosis or additional support.
Despite the best efforts of my family and my therapist at home to get me to seek additional support at the University, I was adamant I was fine. In all honesty, I was terrified of my lecturers finding out and thinking I couldn’t cope. I was convinced they’d lower my grades or not give me extra opportunities. I also worried that if people I was meeting found out, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me.
Ultimately, in the years that followed, I realised I was wrong; I did need extra help. My lecturers didn’t think I was weak. They didn’t lower my grades. And people did want to be my friend. I wish I had heard this from someone else before starting.
I’ve gone on to have 3 episodes of severe depression and anxiety in as many years. Even when I’m not in a severe episode, the ripples of depression and anxiety are constantly underlying. I remain mindful all the time and have come to be far more accepting of support as a consequence. Each episode, the level of support I have needed has varied. That’s what is so great about Bath – from my experience; they’ve always had an answer. I’ve never been ‘too ill’ or ‘not ill enough,’ even if they have referred me externally for suitable or additional support.
Here are some other things I wish I had known as a Fresher…
Talk to the academic staff
Academics will likely have experienced someone struggling with their mental health before. They will be aware of the support available and things that can be put in place to help academically. Things they can help with:
- Signposting you to additional support
- Information on extensions
- Information on Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMC’s)
- Information on suspending studies or moving to part-time status
The University has excellent confidential support services available to all students. They’re experienced, and always have your best interests at heart. It can be a bit confusing at first to know what support would be best for you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. And if that support turns out not to be right, or not enough, please let them know. There’s a lot of support available within the University, but if that isn’t right for you, they have a lot of information about external organisations. At the end of the day, you know yourself best. It can be difficult but don’t be afraid to say what you need. Here are some services available at Bath:
- Wellbeing advisors offer a ‘drop-in’ service. They offer a space to talk about things you are finding difficult, whether that’s to do with your mental health or other parts of your wellbeing. This can be a good way to find out what additional support is available, or ‘test out’ whether you’re ready to get support. They are also fantastic if you are accessing additional services, but need additional support on a particularly difficult day when the other service(s) aren’t available
- Mental health advisors are specially trained in supporting mental illness. They have exceptional training and can offer you a space to talk, as well as a management plan – including discussion around medication
- Counsellors offer a set number of sessions to help unpack individual difficulties you may be experiencing. Counselling can help with the processing of difficult emotions, experiences, or thoughts, as well as help you to begin to understand yourself better
- Disability Advisors can suggest things that can be put in place to assist you academically. Often, this is done through a Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), which they can help you with. Things that this may include is mentoring, skills sessions, and assistive technology or software. Disability Advisors can also create a Disability Action Plan (DAP) detailing ways you need help as a student. This may include information for your department about how your disability may affect you, as well as alternate exam arrangements
- Silvercloud is a new online course available to all students. It is an online Cognitive Behaviours Therapy (CT) Stress Management programme. There are numerous different topics covered online, including resilience and self-esteem. This may be ideal if you don’t feel like you want to talk to someone yet – it’s completely self-guided meaning you can work through different topics at a pace that is right for you
- Read Well is a new scheme that has seen 50 self-help books (approved by Student Services) added to the library. All are available online or to borrow as a hard copy
The GP is a good person to discuss concerns around your health with. They can give you a good overview of the options, monitor your concerns closely, refer you onto services, and prescribe medication if necessary.
Look out for support groups
There are some support groups based on campus. Student Minds offer fantastic support and regularly advertise about different groups available. This is a great way to meet similar people, share experiences with people who genuinely understand, and pick up some tips.
Outside of ‘official’ support…
Think of things that can support your own mental health. This may include joining a society, being with friends, reading, or getting some fresh air on your own. If you feel able, I have found it beneficial to talk to loved ones about my mental health. They can be a longer-term source of support and welcome relief or distraction from discussing the difficulties of dealing with a mental illness.
The support I have received from Student Services, Academic Staff, and external sources associated with the University, have helped me beyond words, and ultimately enabled me to remain at Uni.
My take-home message is this – don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not an anomaly by struggling. The amount of support that is available wouldn’t be there if you were the only one experiencing it. Talk, talk, and talk some more.