~ Hannah Morpeth
People don’t like to wait at the best of times: whether it’s for Christmas, payday or the ever-growing queue at the Primark till, never mind when they are poorly. Waiting is rubbish, and yet with the increasing demand for mental health services, you may well find yourself on a waiting list for support.
Fear not though, here are a few tips to help you through the waiting period:
University can be as difficult a time as any to develop a mental health problem and if you are living away from home you may find that this makes it more difficult to access health care services. Nobody can give you the answer as to whether you should register with a GP surgery at home or at university – this depends on your particular circumstances, but remember that whichever you choose, you should still be able to access all of the same services as a temporary patient at the other location. Whatever your choice, I encourage you to be persistent with accessing mental health treatment. Get the ball rolling as soon as you notice you are having difficulties – it’s always good to be able to access support early on and there may be a bit of a wait to get active treatment and support.
University can prove to be really useful when it comes to this waiting period with help from student support and wellbeing. Have a look on your university’s website for information on what kind of support they provide. Most universities have some form of in-house counselling team which can offer forms of talking therapy and psychological interventions with relatively short waiting lists. Usually you are required to do some form of self-referral – lots of these are now done online – and you will be asked a series of questions about what you are struggling with and how this is currently affecting your day-to-day living. This will usually be followed up by an initial appointment in which the worker will discuss what they can offer you in terms of support: be it a group session, skills training, counselling or something such as cognitive behavioural therapy. In addition to this the university will have funds set aside for supporting students, which can be in the form of methods of recording lectures, a support for in your lecture, providing equipment and occupational support such as appropriate chairs etc. You are usually assessed for these to be put into place and may be required to provide medical information. Not many people are aware of how much a university can support you in this sense so it’s all about making students aware of their entitlements.
Use your personal tutor – yes that person who you see once in freshers week and then forget they exist for the next three years – personal tutors can be very useful if you are having a hard time, don’t be worried about ‘bothering them’, they have time set aside for supporting students. If your mental health problem is interfering with your studies it is definitely worth arranging a meeting with your personal tutor, as they can provide extra tutorial support in these circumstances, as well as pointing you in the direction of other entitlements. In terms of extra support, applications can be put in for personal extenuating circumstances. This can be when your mental health needs are affecting your performance, which could entitle you to extensions on written work or rearranging examinations. It is worth keeping your personal tutor up to date with the current situation/treatment you are receiving but do not feel like you have to tell them all of the ins and outs if this is going to prevent you from accessing support.
Remember that whilst many support services involve some form of initial assessment of needs, this is to help you identify what support would be most useful so please don’t let this put you off. It is always worth getting help early on and university support services are set up to see you as quickly as possible, so it’s a great first step to accessing support!