Knowing you’re struggling is one thing; reaching out for support is often quite another. Looking back to when I started university in 2017, I wish I’d known how much support there was out there to help and how simple accessing mental health support can be.
Having spent the past four years at York, I have certainly had my fair share of ups and downs with my mental health. I have always had issues with my mental health but, despite loving university, I found that both my anxiety and depression became more acute as I struggled to deal with the stresses brought about by life at university. I’m certainly not alone in this. In particular, there has been a reported spike in mental health issues among students during Covid-19, with a reported 66 per cent of students reporting mental health issues in one survey (savethestudent.org).
Support from the Department
For me, the first step was accessing support within my department. Not everyone feels comfortable going to their supervisor to discuss their issues. So having separate provisions for pastoral support is vital to ensure that there is consistent support.
Within the Department of History, the appointed Student Experience and Support Officer was able to guide me towards Disability Services. It was vital to have welcoming pastoral support within my own department, as it felt like I had an advocate who understood my strengths and struggles.
Disability Services and the DSA
Often, navigating the support available feels a bit overwhelming. I always felt a bit unsure about reaching out for support as I felt like there were people more deserving of it than me. But I was reassured that those concerns should not stop me from getting help myself! With the help of the Disability Services team, I was able to apply for the DSA (Disabled Students’ Allowance). This covers any study costs you might have relating to a long-term disability. The process is relatively straightforward and free of charge.
Getting DSA support was not only helpful but also incredibly validating. Once you have applied for the DSA, you schedule a needs-based assessment with the nearest team (which for me was on campus). This sounds much more daunting than it is – nobody is trying to catch you out! Instead, you talk through your experiences – including strengths and difficulties – with a professional. They can show you and recommend to you products and services that might be helpful. The result of this assessment is to make recommendations for what would be helpful for you. It is on that basis that they write a report which allows you access to refundable services, such as technology services or mentoring.
Through accessing this mental health support, I now feel much more confident approaching tutors to explain my needs. Ultimately your tutors are there to help you study and learn in the way that suits you best, and being open and honest if you are finding something difficult is important for both of you. Knowing I have the support of the Department and Disability Services helped me to be more confident in asking for help, instead of just trying to struggle through regardless.
I would recommend that anyone who has struggled with similar issues to reach out. There is so much help out there for you, and so many people ready to listen.
- Read more student stories about support at York