Friday, 2 January 2015

How to inform your university about your mental health

How to inform university about mental health

After my last post on 'How to survive university with depression' I was asked if I could do a more detailed post on how I told my university about my deteriorating mental health. I think a lot of people are possibly a bit scared about telling their university, due to the stigma around it and the thought that they may get thrown out or treated differently. Especially medical students - I was terrified as I thought I may have been seen as unfit to practice. However it would be illegal to expel someone from university on the grounds of their mental health, so there is no reason to worry about this, and it is amazing how many medical students suffer with it. In addition, your university will have a dedicated student support team that are used to dealing with people with mental (and physical) health conditions - this team will be trained to be discreet and should know exactly what to say to you, and how to support you.

I will give you a quick guide about how I notified my university about my mental health - this may be different for other universities (I am in Liverpool), but I guess the process will be very similar.

I first emailed our medical year secretary and told her that I had a few problems at the moment that I needed to talk to somebody about. She redirected me to the medical student support team (or the student pastoral team), and I met with a lady that is head of that team. I told her all about what had gone on in my life, whilst blubbing my heart out, and she was very understanding and empathetic about my circumstances, telling me that I could take time off if I needed to. We had a few more meetings after that, whenever I needed a bit of extra support, and she was always very helpful for me, with the offer of referring me onto counselling services if need be, and giving me advice about how to manage my depression on a day-to-day basis. Our meetings were summarised and will be stored in the confidential area of my file until I finish medical school, and are only available to certain people - those in the pastoral team. I also input mitigating circumstances for my exams last year, detailing my current and past circumstances, which were useful just in case I needed to retake. Liverpool let you retake your exams as though it is your first attempt if you fail any if your mitigating circumstances are accepted - but you should look at your individual university's terms as I think they can all differ slightly. You will also need some evidence to back up your mitigating circumstances. I had a letter from my GP, which is all the more reason to tell your doctor if your mental health is suffering.

I hope this helps with anyone that wants to inform their university about their mental health; basically you should email a member of staff on your course, and they will direct you to the people that can help you. I was asked about individual people's reactions - I have only spoken to one person about my mental health and she was lovely and helpful, but I have heard that other members of the team are also really understanding and compassionate. As I said earlier, the student support team will be trained to handle situations and should know exactly what to say to you and how to support you.

Just to reiterate my last post, I think it's really important to tell your university if you are struggling, as they will have the resources to support you and you will then be able to input mitigating circumstances for exams if need be. Get as much support as you need!

Today has been spent on a long walk with my family, and then we visited Ironbridge for a milkshake and cake. Off for a nap now as I'm exhausted!
A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.
            - Eeyore


  1. Hi Hannah, thank you very much for writing this entry. I think, this is really valuable information and it's great to know that the student support team is properly trained so that they can offer valuable help.

    1. Hi Melinda, thank you for your comment. I'm glad this post is useful for you. Any more suggestions just let me know :)