Thursday 9 March 2023

Advocating for Yourself: University Mental Health Day

It's University Mental Health Day! The Editorial Team have come together to share their experiences on how they've dealt with difficulties and advocated for themselves at university.

- Student Minds Editorial Team

✨ Advocating for Yourself ✨

⭐ Emily T (Student): 

For most of my first year at university, I struggled with anxieties regarding my academic work whilst also feeling that I hadn’t really found “my people”. Durham felt a world away from what I had known for the past eighteen years of my life: a new place, new people and new academic pressures. As someone who finds it difficult to deal with change, moving to university was a big shock! 

However, towards the end of my first year, I started to find my confidence at university. Each time I wrote an essay, tackling the next felt much less stressful. I even started to enjoy the work that I was doing! Further to this, I decided to join the committee of my university brass band (the BEST decision ever). I have made so many friends in the band; it is amazing to be part of a community that loves music as much as I do! 

Even though it took some time, I feel like I’ve found my place in Durham! 

⭐ Sarah (Student): 

When I first started university, I was worried about a lot of things, like finding friends and getting 'good enough' marks on academic work. These worries were compounded by some personal struggles that I had, including bereavement and finding it hard to physically get to classes due to my chronic knee pain.

Although this was a difficult period for me in terms of my mental health, I learnt a lot about the importance of advocating for myself. I'm often the type of person who doesn't really want to attract attention, so sometimes I can let myself 'suffer in silence'. Reaching out to student services for support so soon after starting university showed me that it's really not as scary as I imagined to advocate for myself and ask for help when I need it. Since then, I feel more confident to reach out when I'm struggling at university, even for matters as simple as asking clarifying questions to my tutors.

⭐ Tayyibah (Student): 

Starting university back in 2020 seemed daunting with it being the pandemic and not having the chance to fully meet everyone however with support in place from staff this helped a lot with the transition. Once I was settled in I got to know a wide range of people and started to form connections with those I felt more comfortable with. This helped me grow in confidence as having supportive people who boosted me and said I was doing okay helped me stay grounded in the moment.

Throughout my degree, I have gained the confidence and courage to reach out and speak to others who are struggling as well as support myself and maintain boundaries. The best thing to come out of this was becoming a student representative for my degree as that has really helped me to flourish with confidence and it has given me the skills to work on later in life.

⭐ Joe (Graduate): 

When I first started university, I had only come out as gay to a couple of my friends and only told my dad the week before I went. I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the whole thing at the time and wasn’t comfortably ‘out’ so didn’t tell anyone at uni for a while. I definitely struggled with bottling this up and felt like I was lying about who I was to people and it played on my mind all the time. However, once I eventually started opening up to those who I felt I could trust I began to grow in confidence and started enjoying uni more – it was definitely a difficult journey but I got there in the end!

⭐ Alyssa (Student): 

Living with ADHD and autism at university can be very difficult. In my personal experience, university standards for communication and productivity are based on the assumption that a student is neurotypical and can work for hours with no distractions or hop on a quick Zoom call with no difficulty. 

But when you live with ADHD and autism, nothing could be further from the truth. Some days, my brain simply does not allow me to work as long or as hard as I feel like I should and it can be difficult to explain this so I can receive the appropriate support and accommodations. 

But living with these mental health struggles has taught me the importance of advocating for yourself at university. Sharing my experience by writing for Student Minds has helped me find my voice and grow confident in talking about my mental health so that people like my PhD supervisor can understand how neurodivergence impacts my life and my studies. 

Find out how you can get involved on University Mental Health Day.

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