Hi everybody! I hope you’re all doing fantastically well. I don’t usually upload new posts on Thursday, but the day that this post is being uploaded marks A level results day in the UK. This is the day that students aged 16-19 at college will receive their A level results, and will likely be sitting refreshing UCAS at 8am to find out their grades! If that is you, then I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a huge well done! If you got the grade you wanted and whether you are going to university or not, congratulations!! On the other hand, if you left the hall disappointed then it’s important to remember that the letters on paper are not the end of your story. You are entitled to be upset and disappointed, but try not to dwell on it if possible as there are plenty more options including access courses, resitting modules and finding a different university during clearing.
Backtrack four years to my results day and I was super happy, I found out that I’d got into my firm choice before going into school to receive my grades. I was delighted that I was going to be studying at my university of choice, as I’d been hoping to study at a university local to me and commute daily.
The one thing that I hadn’t anticipated when I started university in October was the fast decline in my mental health. I don’t want this post to be one of those negative rants about my life, but it was really, really tough. I left my comfort zone entirely, a new place of education; more difficult work and my entire support network had split up to study elsewhere. I was an anxious mess. I hid my anxiety from everybody, hoping that I would ‘settle in’ to university and it would go away, but it didn’t. Four years later, I still suffer from complex mental illness. There’s so much about mental health at university that I wish I’d known about at the time, and this is why I really wanted to write this post. Whether you have a diagnosis of a mental illness at this time which you’re trying to control, whether you’re suffering in silence, or whether you’re just reading this post in hope that you can help somebody else; I really hope that you are able to take something from this post.
Find out About Your Universities Counselling/Mental Health Services
It actually took me until the fourth year of my degree to find out that my university had free counselling for all students. When I was at breaking point, I booked an appointment to see a counsellor and I had an appointment the following week, from application. This length of waiting list is much smaller than that of the NHS, so it’s worth knowing where you can go to sign up, even if you don’t feel you need it at this present time. My counsellor was a fantastic listener, gave me a load of useful resources including online CBT and paper resources for calming an anxiety attack. I was also referred to the university’s mental health specialist, so that she could look into exceptional circumstances. Many universities do actually make adjustments for mental health illnesses, whether it’s extended deadlines or more time in exams.
Make Contacts with Course Staff
As a super shy individual, I found that this point actually really helped me. Make sure that you go to see your personal tutor (you should be allocated somebody when you start!) and openly discuss your issues and worries with them. Personal tutors should be trained in pastoral support so, therefore, they should be able to guide you in regards to the best points of contact for problems that are out of their control. Likewise, if you have difficulties with the actual course, make sure to get in contact with the corresponding module leader and either email them or use their office hours to gain access to the support that you need. The staff really are there to help, and they want you to do well!
Look After Yourself and Don’t Give into Pressure
I know, the age-old cliché, but it’s vital that you continue to look after yourself whilst at university. I think this is more so the case if you’re living away from home and in halls. It’s so important that you eat nutritiously, drink lots of water and keep up with your coursework. Here’s some easy advice; be careful with the takeaways, buy fruit as snacks (bananas are super cheap) and take your own meals to the library rather than buying meal deals.
It’s also really important that you are able to juggle your studying with looking after yourself and relaxing. This is something that I really struggled with, and believe me, to be overworked is not a nice feeling at all. What I find helps me is to make a timetable of work, so that I am able to schedule in time to relax and do whatever I please, whether it’s reading a book (but under no circumstances can this be a text book!) or going to the shops.
Additionally, make sure that you have plenty of time to socialise, in whatever format makes you happy. But, please, don’t give into social pressure! At university, particularly in first year, there can be a lot of parties, getting drunk and clubbing. But whether that’s not your scene, or you just don’t feel like it on some days, make sure that you’re able to say no. I’ve had far too many nights out where I’ve thought that drinking will cheer me up, but I’ve ended up crying in a nightclub toilet at midnight. Not fun, and not cool at all. There’s nowhere I’d have rather been than my bed!
Maintain Your Recovery Plan
This is more so aimed at individuals who already have a diagnosis of a mental illness and are actively treating it. Please, make sure to get in touch with services local to the university! Make sure you are registered with a GP nearby to where you’re studying so that you can get your medication, and if you wish to do so then ask them for a referral to a counsellor/therapist. I know that some of my friends would travel home to go and visit a therapist they were with there, although whether this is plausible for you likely depends on a variety of factors including how far away you live, the frequency of visits and how well you feel like you connect.
Make sure you make the effort to keep in contact with family and friends as a source of social support too. Arrange visits to and from home to keep your head held high!
Are you going to university this year? Or, if you’ve already been, what would your advice be for new starters? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!