- Becky McCerery
University is a place of new experiences, new people and new priorities! It’s no surprise then to find a large majority of students experience stress, mental distress and sometimes even isolation during this big period of change. There are, thankfully, many ways your university can support you if you have had difficulties concerning your mental health. Not only can they provide preventatives so your risk of struggling in the future is greatly reduced, but they can also make sure the impact of stress from exams is cushioned by a support network and fun releases. Here are some ways to make sure university is a supportive environment for you:
- Keep your university in the loop – If you start struggling, whether that be with mental health difficulties or exam stress, your university needs to know! They can help and support you whilst making sure you stay on top of your work and assignments. If you have struggled with mental health in the past (even if you feel you are coping when you first start the semester) applying for DSA (Disabled Students Allowance), putting your name down for guided self-help group classes or even just letting your lecturers know that you have experienced mental health difficulties and distress previously will be of a huge benefit to you. Unless they're in the loop, your university won’t be able to give you leniency on deadlines, support you through stressful times and let you access mental health support on campus. All of this will make your journey through university much smoother.
- Join a club or a society – Make university life fun and enjoyable by joining a society to meet like minded people; it'll help you build a strong support network. In addition, joining a sports team will up your activity levels and give a healthy stress release, which will make the stressful times more manageable! Making the most of your time at university is vitally important. While generally the main reason you’re at university is to bag that degree and pave your way into a dream job, there’s thousands of opportunities while you're there to make friends and explore new interests.
- Consult your GP – It’s vitally important that one of the first things you do when you move away from home for university is register with a local GP. If you’ve had mental health difficulties in the past, book an appointment at the beginning of your semester to let them know about your past - it'll make accessing any professional help through the NHS easier and more efficient. Your GP can recommend any group therapies or charities local to you in your new city, or get you in touch with mental health services to support you for as long as you need.
- Stress and Time Management – I’m a huge advocate for perfecting stress and time management skills! They will be invaluable throughout your life, but they are of particular importance at university. Your institute should let you know of deadlines in advance, and with the correct time and stress management techniques (you’ll find what works best for you) these deadlines should be attainable. Even so, an unforeseen incident may occur that affects your ability to meet these deadlines whilst producing work to the best of your ability. If this is the case, your institute will be able to extend deadlines, give authorised absences and even cater your exams towards your new needs.
A lot of people see their university as a source of stress and worry. They feel bogged down by deadlines and revision and can feel isolated and sometimes hopeless as things to start piling up. But by being aware of what your particular institute could do for you as well as implementing any preventative measures to make your time studying a little more plain sailing, you can really make the difference between looking back on your time at university and thinking: “That was so stressful and difficult - I’m so glad it’s over” or thinking: “Wow, that was hard work - but what an incredible ride!”