Written by: Jenny Smith
Leaving home and going to university is a big enough transition in and of itself, but if you throw in the experience of having some form of mental distress on top of it, it can become an overwhelmingly challenging time for a young person.
Thankfully universities are much more aware and equipped to sensitively and affectively support students these days, there are a range of both practical steps and various support options that can be taken by anyone who is concerned about their wellbeing.
Make the right choice for you
Bearing your needs in mind when choosing your options for university is important, one consideration is how far you want to be away from home. If there is a significant support structure at home like your parents, siblings or friends then choosing a Uni that is not too far away might make sense, making it easier get home or be visited quickly should the need arise.
Getting Support At Uni
Once you’ve chosen and been accepted by the university, letting them know about your situation is a wise move. It can feel daunting to disclose mental health difficulties but nowadays, each university has a specific student support department that deals on a daily basis with people who experience depression, anxiety and all sorts of mental health distress.
Mental Health assessment
You will probably be encouraged to have a DSA (disabled students allowance) assessment to see whether it would be helpful to put certain things in place. A support mentor, note takers or a personal tutor if your studying is affected by any learning difficulty or mental health, also funding for equipment if this would make things easier for you. Universities also have a wealth of services on campus including, counselling and advocacy, knowing about these can make the difference between sinking and swimming.
Speak to the local GP
Registering with a local GP is also a very helpful, practical step to take. If you take medication, it is a good idea to have an initial conversation with them and ascertain whether they will be happy to take on responsibility for continuing your prescription. GP’s vary from area to area in their practice; it might be that you decide to continue to be registered at your home address if your uni doctor is reluctant to treat you in the same way.
Thinking ahead to what the potential challenges may be, formulating some loose plans for how you would ideally like to deal with them will also provide you with a sense of security. Create a list of emergency contacts made up of people that you know and trust. Services that you would consider reaching out to should the need arise. Have a conversation with someone that you feel safe with and see if you can identify what the challenges might be in your first term.
Have an action plan
Some people will find being in an unfamiliar area unsettling and might struggle to go out alone and find their way around. Others might feel scared about going to tutorials and seminars, being expected to speak up in front of a group of students who they don’t know, others may worry about living in close proximity with strangers and sharing bathrooms and kitchens on an on going basis.
Whatever your concerns, see if you can be honest and gentle with yourself in terms of naming them. Try to find support to identify plans of action that will ease the stress and strain of the transition.