Monday 26 August 2019

How to start university with pre-existing mental health conditions

Kayleigh shares her top tips for starting university with pre-existing mental health conditions. 

- Kayleigh Brinkman

Starting university can be difficult, particularly for people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Being aware of what support is on offer before you arrive will save time and stress, leaving you to enjoy freshers the way you want to. This is why I have put together a series of tips that helped make my transition to university easier. 

Disclose your condition to the university, sooner rather than later
The sooner that the university are aware, the sooner they are able to provide the appropriate support and organise the right adjustments for you. This can be done through your UCAS application and when you officially register with the university. It is recommended that you still disclose your condition to the university, even if you are not currently experiencing any issues, as this will save time later on. It is good to be prepared in advance! 

Research the support available, both at university and in the local area
Before you start university, it can be helpful to research the support available at the university and in the local area. All universities will offer a counselling service, so it might be helpful to see how the application process works and how many sessions they offer. There will also be a mental health advisory team at your university, which provides support for students who are experiencing long term mental health conditions. 

Support is also available in the local community. Make sure you register with a local GP at the beginning of term, especially if you need to sort out any prescriptions. Your GP can also give you advice on accessing therapy as well as advising on medications. 

In an emergency, contact your local GP for an emergency appointment or call NHS 111 or 999. 

Accessing DSA
DSA is the Disabled Students Allowance, which can be accessed through Student Finance England. DSA can help with the costs of hiring a non-medical helper, getting specialist equipment and funding travel costs. The application process requires medical evidence, and once processed it can be used to gain further support throughout your time at university. If you’re struggling with the application process, don’t be scared to ask the mental health team at university for help. After submitting your application, you will have an independent assessment to see what provisions can be put in place. 

Remember that you aren’t alone
Starting university can be scary, especially with pre-existing mental health conditions. But, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are lots of other students going through this same process, and many have made it through university despite their struggles. There are lots of people you can talk to including teachers, other students, friends and family. It can be helpful to keep your loves ones in the loop when you are struggling so they can offer you support.  

It can be hard talking to new friends about your mental health, but you can go into as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable with. You will never be forced to talk about your experience, but it can be helpful to remember that many students have their own experience with mental health conditions, talking about this with them can help remind you that you don’t have to fight this alone.

There is no right or wrong way to prepare for university. But having the support in place from the offset can make the transition to university a lot smoother. Look after yourself and remember that you are not alone. Starting university is the next chapter of your life - you can do it! 

For more information on what support is available at your university and further, see here

Kayleigh is a third year student at the University of Birmingham studying a joint honours in Education and Sociology. Mental health is something she is very passionate about and hopes that talking about her experiences through social media and YouTube helps make people going through similar things feel a little less alone.

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