Saturday, 17 November 2018

Mental Health is Fluid

Rosie shares why it's important to recognise how experiences of mental health can change and fluctuate.
- Rosie

In recent years, one of the most important changes in attitudes to gender and sexuality has been the recognition of fluidity. To my understanding, fluidity means two things. It means recognising that people do not fit neatly into labels: everyone who identifies with a label will experience it slightly differently. It also means that an individual’s experience isn’t static, but can change over time. What if we started to think of mental health in these terms?

Labels can be important and liberating; they can give people the language to express their experiences and access support. Yet it is essential to recognise the fact that mental health does not exist statically within these labels. It changes person-to-person, day-to-day. Personally, two very different stages of my life have taught me how these two aspects of fluidity apply to mental health.

1: Everyone’s experience is different. Let’s rewind about two years. I was slowly acknowledging my struggles with food when I noticed a change in my social interactions. Looking back, what I was experiencing might be described as social anxiety. But, at the time, I never spoke to anyone about it, despite the fact that I was gradually open up about my problems with eating. The main reason for my silence on this particular struggle was that my experience didn’t match up with the symptoms I’d heard about. I never had panic attacks or heart palpitations, for instance. In hindsight, I wish I had known that my experience didn’t have to echo everyone else’s for it to be valid, real, or worth talking about. I may not have ticked all the boxes associated with social anxiety. But why should that have meant I didn’t deserve to talk about feeling physically sick when I bumped into people in the supermarket? 

2: Every day is different. By last year, as I had been recovering for some time, I no longer associate myself with the terms “eating disorder” or “body dysmorphia”. But in the stress of finals, I found myself experiencing some of the thought processes that I thought were long behind me. One of the scariest but most valuable lessons of this time was mental health can change day by day, minute by minute. Just as experiences of social anxiety vary person to person, recovery is not a permanent, unchanging state: it is complex and personal, with peaks and troughs. I still sometimes have days when I struggle with my body. But no more am I repulsed by myself to the extent that I can’t even look in a mirror. By recognising the fluidity of my mental health, I realised that any struggles I experience from day to day do not negate how far I’ve come. If anything, they highlight the progress I’ve already made and remind me of the importance of continuing to care for and monitor my mental health, regardless of my stage of recovery. 

So if you find yourself comparing your mental health to other people, or to your past experiences - you are not alone in that experience. But also know that you don’t have to think of it in those terms. I wish I could tell past Rosie that she didn’t need to meet any set of requirements and her feelings were and always would be valid. That labels were there only ever to help her express what she was feeling, not to limit or define her experience. That recovery didn’t mean she wasn’t allowed to have bad days. That mental health was fluid, and that it would be ok. 

Hi! I'm Rosie, and I'm doing an MA in interpreting and Translating in Bath. Mental health is very close to my heart, and I hope sharing my experiences will help others in similar situations.

Friday, 2 November 2018

When Molehills Become Mountains

Katherine shares her tips on how to deal with overthinking. 

- Katherine Lund

I overthink EVERYTHING. I worry all the time. I worry about what I said, what I didn’t say, whether to go to a party or stay in and watch a film, what to wear, how to act, how to be and what to say. I ask myself so many questions. I think of the what-ifs and should-I-have’s. I over-analyse and I self-destruct. I make mountains out of molehills. But I can’t help it. Or can I?

Over the last few years I’ve come up with ways to stop myself overthinking.

They’ve helped so much that now I am able to stop myself, pause, and have more control. So here are my tips…

I stop comparing myself to other people.

I used to do this especially around my sister. Now, I say we’re completely different people. We’ve had different experiences. I’ve had various issues I’ve had to deal with and those have been massively important in shaping who I am today. Everyone is different. What might be your strong suit might be your best friends’ weakness and vice versa. Don’t compare when you don’t have a reason to compare.

I stop thinking about the worst that can happen, and start thinking about the best outcome.

When I get into that horrible mindset of thinking about all of the negative things that could happen, I shift my focus to what could go right. It’s all positive.

I try not to be a perfectionist. 

It’s great to be ambitious. That’s fantastic. But perfection is not going to happen. It’s like ‘fetch’ in Mean Girls… It’s never gunna happen. Just face it. Tip: Mean Girls is a great film. Watch it.

I found friends that love and support me for who I am.

They help me challenge that inner critic, so I can be a more confident, and less self-deprecating human being. Choose your friends wisely. A good friend is someone that appreciates you for who you are, not who you pretend to be.

I try not to think about the future too much.

I find that instead of making me feel good, it makes me anxious and worried. Live in the present. The ‘here and now’, as my therapist used to say. If you’re constantly thinking about the future, you’re not spending enough time focusing on yourself now. And what’s going on in your life now. Or what’s making you happy now. Live in the moment. Try not to look ahead too much. It’s tiring and isn’t actually that productive in the long run.

When I find myself overthinking something, I ask myself how much it will matter in the next few months, or days, or even hours.

Usually, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Something like which biscuit to buy at Tesco – yeah I might not have the best type of biscuit for dipping in my tea, but does it really matter? Will it ruin my day? No. You can dip any biscuit into tea. It’s still going to be yummy. Next time you’re worried about overthinking something, take a step back and work out how much it will affect you in the long run. I bet it won’t be as much of a deal as you thought it was.

Finally, I don’t think about plan B, because that makes me feel rubbish. 

Instead, I tweak plan A a little. In fact, I screw plan B all together.

Hi I’m Kat! I’m a mental health blogger from Norwich, and current university student at UEA. I write about everything, from student stress to sexuality, from anxiety to relationships. I love writing because it helps me in my recovery, but also because it can help other people too! I can’t wait to share my stories with you.

You can find more support on anxiety here.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

What do I do after graduation?

Manuela writes about the uncertainty and anxiety of employment after uni, and the importance of self-care.
- Manuela

“I took the first job I could and ended up in a far worse state than I would have after a few more months at home working out what would make me happy”.

After Graduation - What Happens?
Once my course had finished, I clung by my fingernails to my tiny London flat until, jobless and bored stiff, I was collected by my parents after graduation. They whisked me back to the middle of rural nowhere, where I set up camp with my laptop and a notepad, and tried to think of what I’d learned over the past three years that might be an employable skill…. And so began the toughest year I’ve had to date.

My boyfriend and most of my friends had another year to go until graduation; to me it was imperative that I find a way back to them in London. But my greatest fear wasn’t loneliness, it was lack of identity. For the past three years I’d put “student” as my occupation, and for the past 19 years of my life my raison d'être was to fill my tiny head with knowledge. Now that I’d run out of things to learn, who was I now?

I had no idea whatsoever what I might enjoy, or what I would be good at in the “real world”. Through trial and error, I eventually discovered a job title for which the description seemed to fit my personality, and the benefits and starting salary seemed unbelievably generous. I landed my first interview for the position of “junior recruitment consultant”. Manuela - 1 : Hopelessness - 0. I was convinced I was on the road to success now. But I hadn’t stopped to consider what would make me happy…. 

Losing Myself to Work 
Fast-forward through a whirlwind of sickening interviews and miserable morning commutes, I’m a fledgling recruiter and I hate my life. I was balancing my job with rowing, a boyfriend and friends all still at university, staying “in shape” and job hunting for the mystery career that, I believed, would be my ticket to happiness. These were all leftovers from my former student life; I couldn’t throw them away. Most of my support network still being at university, I had nobody to benchmark against and nobody to recognise, when I couldn’t, exactly when “not OK” turned into “really not OK”. I was crying on the tube to and from work, at rowing I was terrified of messing up and consequently my performance plummeted. The only time my boyfriend and I could see each other was the occasional weekday evening and our relationship had started to nose-dive. I couldn’t remember what I used to be like at university, or what I was supposed to be looking for now. 

I hadn’t found a permanent flat, so I didn’t have a GP, let alone the time to go and see one. So it wasn’t until I finally turned to Google that I discovered there was a name for what I was feeling: anxiety. I’d never suffered from a mental health problem before - I struggled coming to terms with it so I sat on the problem for a while hoping it would go away. It took me another four months before I booked a doctors’ appointment, by which time, I’d handed my manager my notice. 

I wouldn’t want anyone else who’s just graduated to make the same mistake as me. I was petrified of reaching September - the month I’ve always started a new term or school or subject - and finding myself trapped at home, doing absolutely nothing and feeling like I was worth even less. I took the first job I could and ended up in a far worse state than I would have after a few more months at home working out what would make me happy. 

Finding What Matters 
Now I’m in the exact same position as this time last year, but this time around, I’m backing myself. If spending my days in an office, or working in London will make me feel the way I felt, then I’m going to have enough self-respect and confidence to turn my back on that lifestyle. I’m going by trial and error again, but this time I’m trying my hand at freelance writing, trying to make enough to fund a lifestyle where I can spend the majority of my time outdoors. This time a year ago I didn’t believe I’d be good enough for a dream job if I did find it, let alone be confident enough to slow down and work out what I really valued. Now I respect myself enough to do what makes me feel good about myself. 

A job is a job, it will give you money, yes, and something to put on your LinkedIn. But if it’s going to be the thing you rely on to give you value and purpose, I’d urge you to stop for a moment. 

You don’t need a title to tell you you’re enough. Do what makes you happy.

I'm Manuela and I'm a King's College London graduate. I had excellent mental health until after university, when I immediately started suffering from anxiety. I'm sharing my experiences of struggling during the period immediately after university when most people lose the support they had while studying. I'm hopeful that by sharing my story and advice I'll be able to help people going through a similar experience realize that they're not alone.

You can find more support on anxiety here. Image taken from here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Disclosing your mental health status to your university

In this blog Romana reflects on her experience of disclosing her mental health to her university, highlighting the range of options available to support students

Disclosing your mental health problems to your university can be scary. Telling anybody that you’re struggling is daunting enough, but to have it written in your records - labelling you as having a long-term mental health condition or a disability - can be difficult. However, it is important to remember that in doing this, you may be able to access wellbeing support services that are available to you through your university. I am a fourth year student, and having ticked the ‘long-term mental health condition’ box when I registered for university this year, I am finally learning about and accessing the services that are available to support me.

Every university will have a different process in regards to disclosing your mental health. Personally, having initially disclosed my mental health status, the first step for me was organising a meeting with the mental health pathway team. The aim of this was to help me to consider my support options across the university, and to put adjustments in place where my mental health impacts my ability to study.

For example, as a result of my illness, I often struggle to motivate myself in the mornings, as this is the time of day that I experience low mood and negative thoughts. As a result, more often than not I don’t attend my morning lectures. This meeting with the mental health pathway team has lead to my timetable being adjusted for next term, so that lectures are predominantly scheduled for afternoons where possible. This will stop me from feeling disappointed and demotivated as a result of missing lectures, as well as ensuring that I do not fall behind in my studies.

Furthermore, on my lowest days I will often find it especially difficult to work, complete assignments, or even get out of bed. Instead I’ll spend entire days sleeping, avoiding responsibility, with no regard for the consequences. This isn’t because I’m lazy; I just feel helpless, useless, and I genuinely struggle to find purpose in these days. However, another result of this meeting was that I am now able to easily apply for deadline extensions if I find that I am struggling, or that work is overwhelming me and building up. Whilst I hope that I won’t have to push back my deadlines, it is comforting to know that if everything seems to be going wrong, I will be able to relieve the pressure by giving myself a few extra days to complete my work. 

But personally, my biggest support service is my personal tutor. Once I had disclosed my illness to the university, he immediately emailed me to organise for us to meet once every two weeks; to check up on me and to see how I am getting on. When I am feeling good, I talk to him about the modules that I’m enjoying, my extra-curricular activities, and how my search for a graduate job is coming along. When I am feeling bad, he offers me the academic and emotional support that inspires me to keep going. I know that not everybody is happy with their personal tutor support, so I consider myself extremely lucky that my tutor is so compassionate.

I know that besides the services that I am accessing right now, there are loads more that are available to me. These include exam adjustments such as extra time and sitting exams in a smaller room, wellbeing therapy services and disabled students’ allowance, which offers a personal mentor for weekly support meetings.

These services are there because the university want to see students succeed, and they want to support students in doing so.  Everybody wants to get me through my final year, and I want to get through my final year, finishing with a top grade in spite of my mental illness. So even though it can feel like admitting defeat - giving in and accepting that I need support - I believe that disclosing my illness to the university and accessing support services are essential in ensuring my success this year.

My name is Romana, and I am a fourth year Maths student at the University of Exeter. I have never been one to open up about my struggles with mental health, but I have decided to write for the Student Minds blog as a way to express and understand what I have been going through, as well as to hopefully bring reassurance to others who are feeling as I have.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Learning to Grieve

*Trigger warning* This blog talks about death and grief which we understand can be upsetting.

In this blog Carys shares her tips on dealing with loss and grief as a young person

Recently, I watched a brilliant documentary on BBC iPlayer by George Shelley talking about loss and grief (you'll need tissues). I immediately realised a huge gap in mental health discussion: why is grief never talked about? Especially grief and loss among young people. Perhaps grief is hard to articulate clearly because it isn't clear at all.

Everyone who comes into this world will experience grief at some point in their life, and it's not something you're ever prepared for. Sometimes you don't even think a death will affect you so deeply, but it does.

In this blog I hope to share some tips that I've used when dealing with the sudden loss of 3 friends before age 21, named MR, DB and AW. All three were amazing people and friends I thought I'd have forever. During these rough, emotional experiences I’ve understood a lot about coming to terms with death and I hope what I’ve learned will be useful for others.

1)  Talk about them:
In the documentary, George Shelley mentioned about not even being able to say his sister's name to begin with, which is something I really related to. Since AW died, it's rare I've called them by the name I knew them as. George said to say the name out loud, so I did, and it helped. I sat there in my ball-pool of tissues screaming "AW!" for a good 20 minutes. It felt freeing! Finally, saying the name felt a lot less painful.

2) Let the emotions roll:
I’m all over the place with emotions - sometimes I don't even know if I'm sad crying or happy crying, but it doesn’t matter. There is no right way to feel: I’m allowed to be sad, angry, lonely or quiet if I want to be. It's okay to dedicate time for it too. If I get triggered, I allow myself to take 5 minutes of deep-howling cries or pillow-punching sessions. I’ll then wipe those eyes and start again. I know I'll feel worse if I bottle up these emotions.

3) Remember them:
Facebook’s “remembering" feature in front of my friends' names pulls at those heartstrings. Cover photos picture a moment I desperately wish to re-live. But the photos - and even more so the videos - I find weirdly calming to look through. When someone asks me about framed memories in my room, and the pictures covering my noticeboard, I feel I can talk happily about it. I can remember those times as funny, good, and happy, which they were.

4) Listen to Music
It's amazing how our minds link songs to certain people or memories. Of the 3 funerals I've attended, I remember the first minute of AW's. It's normal for your brain to detach from reality during distressing times - it's called dissociation. I wasn’t able to cry at DB’s funeral and I used to think about that a lot - it doesn't mean that I'm less sad or not as worthy of being there as others (which is what my brain likes to tell me). When I playback the non-hymn tunes played at the services, sometimes memories come out of them, sometimes I get nothing at all. I put on music that we used to listen to together to feel closer to them, or simply feel anything at all.

5) Meditate
Finally, have a listen to this on YouTube. I use when no one is there to listen, or I don't know how to talk about what is hurting. It makes you imagine a person who you need/want to tell something that you've been holding in, and they take it away from you and disappear until you need them again. I'm not the type of person who enjoys meditating, but this clip has helped me so much in life, and it doesn't just apply to grief.

6) Be patient with yourself, and others.
We all grieve differently. It's been 7 months now since AW passed, but my housemates and I are finally all talking again in person and online. The "elephant in the room" or the empty space is still there, and life isn’t the same anymore, but it's getting less difficult. We’re still allowed to have banter and share Gifs in group chats, even with one of us missing.

Thank you so much for reading and well done for getting through this important topic - writing this has been difficult, so I can imagine reading it will be too. Please remember to take some time to practice self-care and look after you.

I'm Carys, a 4th year Modern Languages student at Durham University. As well as my passion for languages and travel, I love talking about mental health and I am one of the Student Minds editors this year. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments about my work - I love hearing from you!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Treat Yourself

Rachel discusses self-esteem and success. 

So many people over the years have told me that the key to success is 'working really hard'. Dedication together with food, water, and sleep are a crucial mix to achieve any goal.

And that is where the advice often ends.

But clocking as many hours as possible is not a recipe for success. It's a recipe for short-term gain and long-term destruction (Fleming, 2018). Not only do 72-hour weeks contribute towards reducing a person's dedication, but they also impact negatively on the other important elements of success. If you are working 12-hour days, chances are you are also skipping meals, on a caffeine drip, and not catching enough sleep. Human beings are not made to operate like machines.
Having volunteered for years with GirlGuiding UK, I have watched time and time again as schools put an intense amount of pressure on students to 'work harder', 'do more', and 'get better'. But all these students are hearing is 'I am not good enough'. Is it any wonder 82% students suffer from stress and anxiety (Veiber, 2017)?

Now is the time to refocus. If we chose to look at our successes rather than our failures and acknowledge our efforts over our shortfalls, we can form a positive view on the work that we are committing and recommitting to every single day (Herald, 2014).

“Here’s your protection for whatever comes: Find something to be happy about every day, and every hour if possible, moment-to-moment, even if only for a few minutes.” - Gregg Braden

Mr Braden has it right! The only thing he doesn't warn us though, is that positivity isn't easy to achieve. It doesn't appear over night. Sometimes we need a little boost to help us get through! Science shows that individuals providing themselves small incentives improve their self control and energy, feeling contended, comforted, and cared for. The contrary is also true; when an individual fails to incentivise themselves, they can burn out, becoming depleted and resentful (Rubin, 2014).

This is where I come to my title: Treat Yourself! On the days you are struggling, banging your head against the wall is not going to help. But going out for a brisk walk, having a real cup of coffee (not the instant stuff!), or doing whatever it is you enjoy doing in your 'me time' - might! Providing oneself with treats is proven to help maintain healthy and good habits (Rubin, 2014).

I am currently in the midst of revision. Now it is crunch time - exams are around the corner. I cannot devour enough information quickly enough! That said, spending eight hours a day hunched over books can become monotonous and ultimately demoralising - I have yet to meet someone who loves revision.

So I break up my day with little treats to keep me going; I practice some mindfulness techniques, volunteer, get a manicure, have a cup of hot chocolate (I'm not a fan of coffee!), work on an art project, or even write a blog post! There are millions of different things you can do to help you over a 'hump'! There is no one-size-fits-all. Keep trying until you find whatever it is that works for you!

I hope whatever it is you choose to be and whatever it is you choose to do to break up your day; you find something that puts a smile on your face!

I have found self-rewarding to be one of the most effective strategies for handling stress. You may have other tips or methods, so please feel free to share them in the comments section!

Rachel Gordon is a student at Brunel University London, reading Business and Management Bsc. A creative writer, Rachel is also an active blogger at her site and in a recent collaborative project, she released a motivational calendar for the year 2019 to raise funds for charity. Rachel volunteers for The Scouts Association and GirlGuiding UK; charities that offer a wide range of opportunities to children and has achieved awards for her dedication. Fluent in both English and Hebrew, she privately tutors Modern Hebrew at both Primary and Secondary Education Level.
For more articles, tips, or information, get in touch: @millennial_me_
Here are some supportive links if you're struggling with managing university stress: 
Starting University (
Mind Matters ( 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

A Note On Graduate Mental Health

In this blog, Emily talks about her mental health as a recent graduate and gives advice to those in a similar situation. 


When I took my final exam back at the end of May, the one thought that went through my brain was not “I finished my degree, time to celebrate and relax for a while!” It was “I finished my degree, what do I do now? What happens next?” All of a sudden, the life that had been lectures, assignments, exams, and stress was over – forever. I didn’t even have the distraction of the university paper to focus on as the final issue of the academic year had already been printed. 

As a Graduate, which has taken a lot of getting used to, I do think that in some respects, I am lucky in the fact that I have had jobs throughout the summer and have a pretty exciting opportunity lined up. About a week or so after finishing my degree, I was browsing the Internet for jobs in Europe – imagining myself teaching English in a sunny country like Spain or Italy. I came across an advert for a job with Education First (EF) teaching English in China and I just thought “why not? If I don’t do something this extreme now, I never will!” That’s how I’ve ended up preparing to go and work and live in China for a minimum of fifteen months. 

My Graduation ceremony back in July was quite a surreal blur of an experience. I was more interested in getting my certificate to begin the process of applying for a VISA to go to China, than I was about the ceremony itself. Also, I was halfway through a month-long contract teaching English in a summer school, which was a very intense and exhausting job to do. It didn’t hit me until a week or so later that it actually happened, and this is my life now.

University is definitely like this protective bubble in a sense. We have responsibilities and our own lives, but we also have a lot of support and guidance when it comes to education, work experience, careers advice, mental health support, etc... Once we’re in the “real world” that all sort of ceases and suddenly, we’re on our own and the world feels huge and scary. Since Graduation, and since leaving Swansea, I’ve experienced a dip in my mental health. Personally, for example, I’ve been feeling as though I need to be in consistent, constant employment rather than temporary contracts here and there until I eventually move to China. Graduate mental health, I believe, is a complex thing, and it is very easy to fall into the cycle of not feeling good enough when getting rejected from job after job, and also missing the friends we’ve made at university, comparing ourselves to others and feeling as though we “should” be in a certain place at a particular time in our lives. 

If anyone who’s recently graduated from university and finds themselves feeling similar, here’s some important tips to remember:
Remember that you’re living your life – you’ll end up where you’re meant to be when you’re meant to get there, with who you’re meant to be there with! (That’s a mouthful).
Remember to practice self-care, which includes being kind to yourself physically and mentally. Whether it’s congratulating yourself for something you’ve done, or just doing something you enjoy doing, be kind to yourself! 
Remind yourself that you graduated from university. It is a massive achievement. That degree certificate, that grade – whether it’s a 1st, a 2:1 or a 2:2, it doesn’t matter – it represents years of hard work, dedication, commitment, passion and focus. 

To quote one of my best friends – “No one truly has their life together; we are all on our own little journey and go at our own pace.” Keep going! 

My name is Emily (Em). I have recently graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting; I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now as a graduate, as well as other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

PHD's Independence: a positive or a challenge to manage?

Nicola shares PHD student' experiences - the freedom, the challenges and calls for post graduate research students to share their experiences.

- Dr. Nicola Byrom

As part of an Office for Students / Research England funded project with Derby University I’ve had the opportunity to interview PhD students about their experience. It seems a time packed full of challenging balances to navigate. Many students point to the freedom that they have as one of the best parts of being a PhD student; you have the opportunity to create your own profile, to manage your own time, to follow your own interests and motivations.

As with any long project, there are peaks and troughs. At the peaks the independence is exhilarating. In the troughs, the independence can feel overwhelming.  With independence comes a real sense that “this is on me;” that if you don’t work out how to make the experiment work, or how to get a project running, no one else will.

Students have talked to me about the challenges they face around training. Even when working in a large and supportive lab group, it can be hard to find someone to help when you get stuck. It feels like this is because, as everyone specialises, there may genuinely be no one within the group who really understands what you are doing and why you are stuck. Reflecting on this experience, students see the positives; these experiences teach you to have self-confidence – you can, eventually, solve problems on your own. If grit wasn’t a pre-requisite for a PhD, it seems to be something most students feel they’ve developed.

When you are independent, you are also responsible. When things are going well, this can feel great. When problems arise, experiments don’t work, or your line of inquiry hits a dead end, it can feel awful. At these points, it can be difficult to separate personal responsibility for errors (the self-doubt can be quick to creep in) from the reality of research; failure is common. After nearly a decade working in research, I’ve learnt that the only certainty seems to be that most things fail! Failure is part of the process, it is something that we can learn from, but that reality doesn’t make it much easier to bear your first failures.

The feeling of independence, and the positives that accompany this, was not universal. Two situations seem liable to curtail independence. First, where a student has transitioned from working as a research assistant in a laboratory group to completing his/her PhD in this group, there can be challenges making the transition to independence. It can be difficult to let go of previous projects and papers to find time to carve out for your own work. Second, where students have industry funded PhDs and spend some of their time in industry, there may be conflicting ideas about the purpose of a PhD, with industry partners expecting to have more influence over the focus of the research and even the day-to-day activities.

Finally, most PhD students that we’ve spoken to so far identify that there is a limit to this independence; their studies are, after all, directed by their supervisor. Interestingly, students in their later years of study have been describing a process of learning to manage their supervisor; there is a process to work through from looking to the supervisor for direction to truly feeling you own the project.

As a PhD student, do you have independence? Is this a positive thing? Or can it be a challenge? Share your experience and help us better understand how to support PhD students here.

I am Dr Nicola Byrom a Lecturer in Psychology at Kings’ College London and Founder of Student Minds. 

Monday, 15 October 2018

Campaign: Stop university students falling through the net when receiving care between home and university

Angela shares her experience receiving support between home and university and why she is campaigning for change.
-Angela Hulbert

Student mental health is hot in the press. In 2015, 15,000 students disclosed a mental health condition, but despite the fact that students are encouraged to talk about their mental health, accessing help whilst a student can be incredibly difficult. With waiting lists incredibly long and only living on campus for 7 months of the year, accessing help can be almost impossible.

Here is my story: 

Throughout 2018, on my year abroad, my mental health took a nose dive to the point where I was having to fly back home from Italy during my stay. The GP saw me and explained to come back to see her once I was permanently back home in order to get some help. Once I moved back to the UK I approached my GP back home asking for help. I was often suicidal, self-harming & my mental health was taking a toll on my physical health. The GP said she wanted to refer me to the mental health unit so I could see a psychiatrist & access more in depth help but due to the fact that I was registered at the university GP (100 miles from home) I couldn’t be referred. I was told I couldn’t re-register when I asked to. So at 21, still not taken seriously, my mum had to get involved which eventually resulted in me being able to re-register at my Home GP. I was referred for Therapy For You an IAPT service where I was then told I could access a text service (not what I needed when I was rapidly loosing hope), once I declined this & pushed for the fact that I wanted to see a human being I eventually got put on a waiting list. I would be seen that summer.

Except I wasn’t. September rolled around & 1 week before moving to university, I received the phone call that a spot had opened up. I explained I was going back to university & could I do fortnightly sessions so that I would be able to commute? Once again I was refused because it had to be weekly sessions, something my timetable & my bank balance couldn’t allow for. Still to this day I have not received any help, just on another waiting list, 4 months after asking initially for help.

I have fallen through the gap. Being a university student, spending 7 months at university & the rest at home but only registered to one GP makes accessing help for your mental health incredibly difficult. Had I gone to the GP that very first time with a lump in my breast that they too were worried about I would have been referred to a specialist then & there to have it checked out even though I was a guest in that practice.

When I took to social media to share my story, my inboxes flooded with stories of students who too have been refused help for both their mental and physical health, some ending tragically with a loss in life. A change needs to happen. Our generation is constantly told to be open about our mental health but when we are the support isn't always available.

Students shouldn't be falling through the net. I have decided that I want to ignite a change and I have created a government petition to allow students to register to 2 GP's. Since creating the petition I have been made aware that dual registration for students may not be the right solution for this problem. Nevertheless a solution needs to be found so that students can receive full ongoing care.

A change starts off small but could help the generations to come. I urge students, parents and everyone and anyone who wants a better system for our young people to please sign this petition as we search for the right solution to this complex problem.

I’m Angela, a French and Italian student with a huge passion for mental health which comes from my own battle with mental illness. Little by little I am hoping that the conversations I have with those around me and on my blog will make a change to someone, somewhere.

Fears, Futures, and Third Year

In this blog, Phoebe discusses final year stresses and the fear of life after university, giving some advice on how to manage these worries. 

I'm in my final year now. I'm very stressed and fearful that I may or may not have taken too much on. Certain things haven't gone to plan and the future is rather uncertain at the minute. 

Being a student isn't all fun and drinking games, but recently I've been feeling immensely overwhelmed by life. It's finally time to start getting approval for my dissertation, my third-year placement is beginning soon, and I kind of don't know where to begin with planning my life after university. 

I'm more than aware I'm not the only person in this situation. Many other people will be about to embark on the same pathway as me, so in the midst of my uncertainty here are a few thoughts I came up with: 

It's OK to feel like this: it's totally OK to not have everything figured out. I know myself enough to know that I can get through this, and similarly you will find your way. And if you need support, then seek it: everybody needs a helping hand at some point in their life. 

Reach out: Once, during my first year, I hit a real low with my mental health. It was one of the worst relapses I've ever had and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to ask my friends for help because I was so scared that they wouldn't want to be my friends anymore. But they stayed with me until the early hours of the next day and it actually brought us closer together. So don’t be afraid.

Believe in yourself: I think the main thing I'm going to rely on this year is myself. I know that I work hard and I know that I can do this: this current stress will pass. I'm going to give this year my best shot and if I don’t get the grade I want, then actually, that's fine. My best is all I can give and my best also involves taking care of myself. 

Take care of yourself: Recently I realised that there a lot of potential limitations to my research project and I'm absolutely petrified that it won't work. Whilst I've been an anxious mess, getting disproportionately stressed, I completely missed the connection that would tie my topics together. Taking time for yourself and taking care of yourself might actually end up being the one thing that helps you carry on. 

There may be overwhelming moments lurking in the future; stress may be about to surmount to quite high levels; but I guarantee you one thing: you are more than capable. Everything you need is within you and there is so much support available around you, for you to use when you need, and to help you reach where you want to go. 

My name is Phoebe, I’m 20 and a 3rd year Psychology student at Nottingham Trent University. I spend a lot of time campaigning for mental health awareness and I’m an ambassador for a number of mental health organisations including Beat and Time to Change.  I also have my own personal blog which I’ll leave the link to here: Feel more than free to get in touch!