In 2019, I applied to the University of York to study History, and I remember feeling so excited but nervous at the same time. I was looking forward to studying a subject I loved in one of the most historic cities in the country. However, I still felt a lot of doubt about whether I would be able to cope.
I’d always struggled in school and Sixth Form, especially with my mental health and self-esteem. Although my life at York started off quite well, I started to feel like I was losing control and falling into bad habits. I couldn’t get out of bed most days; I was struggling with my sleep and my appetite, and I just couldn’t concentrate on my uni work. I ended up missing so many seminars and lectures, and I just cut myself off from everyone. A few months into my first year of my undergraduate degree, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It felt like a relief to have a diagnosis to help make sense of things, but I also felt very lost and uncertain about my next steps forward.
One of the biggest forms of support I got was from my Student Experience and Support Officer in the History department. One of the great things about studying at York is how there are lots of different forms of support; in your department, your college and some of the facilities that the University as a whole has to offer.
I think one thing I could have really benefitted from was hearing about how other students dealt with their mental health at university. Many students suffer with their mental health before, during and after university, so it needs to be spoken about more.
So, to help with this, here are my top tips:
1. Research the university’s mental health support
When I visited York on their open days, I made sure to ask about the different kinds of support the University offered. Your college has a College Manager, Administrator and Life Coordinator (CLC) who can all give you different advice and support. Then there is support in your subject department as well as the counselling service, Open Door.
Once I got my diagnosis, I worked with disability services to work on a disability support plan. This not only made my lecturers aware of my conditions, but it also meant I could get extra time on certain deadlines and be in a smaller room for any in-person exams.
2. Register with a local GP
This can be really useful if you know you need support or advice from a doctor whilst at university, and can make it easier for you to access medication or any other mental health support they may offer.
3. Reach out to your department
Once I got my diagnosis and worked with disability support, my lecturers were notified about my situation. The history department, for me, were really understanding and were able to help me with anything I didn’t understand. I also had an academic supervisor who I could reach out to if I had any concerns or queries.
4. Don’t be afraid to talk to people!
Before I started at the university, I was worried about how I would cope in a new environment with new pressures and people. Once I settled in and found my footing, I found it really helpful to talk to my flatmates and course mates. In my first year, I was able to make a really nice group of friends who could offer helpful advice, and we were able to support one another.
To finish up…
I honestly would have never thought I would have completed an undergraduate degree, let alone start on a postgraduate course. Do I still struggle with my mental health conditions? Yes! Though, one thing I’ve learnt whilst studying is not to feel guilty about the difficulties I face. I just work a bit differently and find some things harder, and that’s okay! Many people come to university with different backgrounds, experiences and obstacles in their life, and the University is able to support them in a multitude of ways.