Mental health at UCL: you are not alone
By IOE Digital, on 20 August 2020
By Callum Flynn, Psychology with Education BSc
Starting University can be a scary feat for anybody – I know it was for me. But my biggest concerns may vary from those of many others. Research conducted by UniHealth found the most common concern for first years is not the money, food or academic performance, which can all be major worries, but rather friendship and making friends. However, for myself, and anybody else who suffers with their mental health, this is often the biggest concern. That being said, all other normal worries faced by first-year students add to this pressure.
Regardless of the point in your life you start university, whether as a student fresh from compulsory education, or a mature student like me, it’s normal to worry. Let me tell you are not alone if you are concerned about things such as whether or not you are going to be able to make friends, if you will have enough money to pay your rent, what you are going to eat or if you will be able to keep up with the workload of your course. These worries are always a concern for all new students, but for some of us who face challenges with our mental health, they can cause additional problems – from panic attacks due to anxiety, struggling with low mood from depression, through to coping with bipolar disorder.
Well, the good news is, you are not alone. These conditions some of us face daily will not prevent you from achieving your goals. There is also more good news and that is UCL is fantastic, in fact incredible, at providing the right support for those of us in need.
You may have seen the UCLCares campaign and let me be the one to tell you, they really do mean it. With a dedicated Student Wellbeing department, as well as Student Services, there is support for any issue you or any student at UCL may face whilst enrolled here. There are some occasions when UCL may not be able to offer direct support, however they work extremely well with external service providers and can provide help in accessing these services. Throughout my first year at UCL, as a 25-year-old with bipolar and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD, I have accessed many of the services available, ranging from academic support through the Student Services department, one-to-one support from my mentor ( a member of faculty from your department) for fortnightly catch-ups, through to psychiatric advice from the Student Wellbeing department, who even communicated my needs through to my GP to ensure consistent care for managing my conditions.
Personally, I am very open about my mental health struggles. And that’s because I believe in this one key message; it’s okay to not be okay, you are not alone. Having suffered on my own for a long while in my early teens, I can now wholeheartedly say that it gets better when you reach out. When you tell someone, it allows you to release some of that built-up stress and pressure and allows you to feel a little bit freer. I find the more I talk about it, the more I feel people care.
Now I understand that reaching out may seem difficult, but the pay-off in terms of support is really worthwhile. I also suggest talking with your friends about it as a first step. This will seem daunting if you have never told them before, however, the relief you feel is worth it. And as they too may be experiencing similar difficulties and may not know who to turn to you could be helping them as well.
Despite how severe you may feel your conditions may be, UCL has your back. The next step to getting support is to reach out to UCL. This can be done by getting in touch with the Disability Support department before you arrive. You can also reach out to your personal tutor who can support you in accessing the required services, as can the Student Services team. UCL is extremely student centred and the staff are always willing to support the students.
The Psychology with Education Society regularly posts updates on support services available to students. You can find out more about the support offered at UCL on the Students’ Union website and via UCL Support and Wellbeing.