Talking about mental health problems can be difficult. It’s nerve wracking telling people about the thoughts, feelings and even voices inside your head when they can’t be seen. They are there and they are real even though you can’t see them, which makes things harder. More than a quarter of students have a mental health problem, so you aren’t alone.
University can evoke a see-saw of emotions but it’s important to talk about mental health problems to combat the stigma. Here’s how to talk to your university about your mental health problems.
Approaching someone at university can be daunting. Thousands of questions run around your head – What will they think? Will they think I’m mad/crazy/stupid? Will they kick me out? But take a step back. There are understanding people out there. Promise.
A spokesperson from the University of Sunderland said: “If you are feeling in need of support while at University and if your mental wellbeing is low, you should remember that this is experienced by many people at all stages of their lives and students are no different.”
Slow and steady wins the race
First of all take it slow. Think about what you want to say before you say it to someone. For some it could be unexpected and for others not, so you need to think about how you’re going to approach the situation, whether it’s a new diagnosis or a condition you’ve had for a while.
You need to be open and honest about how your mental health problem/s could affect you at university. You may not know exactly how, but having some idea means the university can give you the right support. Mental health problems don’t affect everyone the same way. If your mental health problem/s aren’t affecting you now then tell them – but make sure they’re aware that they could do in the future.
Choices, choices, choices
Next you should choose who you want to tell first. This person could be your lecturer, someone from the student union, your university’s disability support team or even a fellow student. It’s important you pick the right person for you. Everyone’s different, so choose who you feel comfortable talking to.
This person can then share the information, with your consent. However, if you are at risk of harming yourself or other people, they are legally obliged have to tell others.
If you don’t know what support services are available to you at your university you can find out on your university’s website or by speaking to the information desk who can point you in the right direction.
A University of Sunderland spokesperson added: “At the University of Sunderland we have a range of wellbeing and counselling services, resources and tools to support students and help them to explore and overcome their challenges, developing new skills and strategies along the way.“
Once you’ve got what you want to say and chosen the right person to tell, it’s about approaching the person. This can be the difficult part. It can seem like a big deal, but once you’ve done it, the weight will be lifted off your shoulders.
If you get the ball rolling, you’ll be able to access the support you need, if any. Just making your university aware is the first step.
Take a deep breath and go for it.
A University of Sunderland spokesperson concluded: “We know that our services help students and can have a real and positive impact on their emotional wellbeing and on their experience while at University.”