Monday, 15 December 2014

How to survive university with depression

How to survive university with depression

University is difficult, even without suffering with depression. You have to get used to looking after yourself, whilst finding new friends and coping with a huge amount of work. All this pressure on top of suffering with a mental illness like depression can sometimes get a little bit too much, but here are my tips that I've found have helped me over the past few months.

You need to realise that it's okay to have 'off' days and spend the whole day in bed crying. Don't beat yourself up about it; just take a day off and try and pull yourself back up the next day. Sometimes you will just need a day or two to relax and make yourself feel better - depression can be exhausting and make it very difficult to get out of bed. Cut yourself some slack and let yourself have some time off. After all, your health is the most important thing.

Surround yourself with good, supportive friends that you can have a chat with if need be. Even if you don't feel like you can open up to them fully about your mental health, it's always helpful to know that somebody is there if you need them, and that people care about you. On the other hand, if somebody makes you feel bad you don't need them in your life; sometimes you have to move on and accept that it just wasn't working.

Organise lots of activities so that you have something to look forward to. These will also help to keep your mind off your negative thoughts, and you will hopefully find yourself having fun at the same time!

Go home if you need to - at one point I went home every weekend as I just needed my family's support and a bit of TLC. Sometimes students think that they "have" to stay at university as it's almost a failure if they go home often, but this really isn't true. You're allowed to go home whenever you want, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

At the same time as organising activities with friends and family, I always find that it's important to spend some time by myself to relax. Light some candles and read a good book; watch that film you keep meaning to see; or meditate to calm yourself - anything you enjoy doing. It's important that you can be comfortable in your own presence, so even just 10 minutes every day is good.

It is so important to input mitigating circumstances if you are suffering with your mental (or physical, for that matter) health. It means that come exam time, if you have a genuine reason why your performance may not be as great as it should be, the university will take it into consideration when marking them. You should see your own university's policy on mitigating circumstances, but I know at Liverpool they allow you to retake the exams as though they were your first attempt if need be. You will probably need some evidence to back your claim up, so it's another important reason why you should speak to your GP about it if you are struggling - they will be able to write a letter to the university for you detailing what has gone on in your life.

Just like the mitigating circumstances, it's essential to notify someone at your university about your mental (or physical) health - student support will often be your first port-of-call. I was a little wary about doing this as first, as I thought I may be judged or thrown out (silly, I know!), but my university have been very supportive and have given me all of the help I need. Details will probably go into your file, but this will be confidential and only certain people will have access to it. The university will not be able to act against you due to your mental health, as this would be illegal, and you will probably find that they go out of their way to support you. It's also another person that will know about your mental health and could back you up with your mitigating circumstances, if need be.

I hope this is useful for anybody that is at university and is struggling with their mental health. These are the things that have helped me so far - my university really has been very supportive of me.

We learn from failure, not from success.


  1. Hey Hannah, I'd love to read a part 2 of this article about the tell your university section. About the organizations (both student and staff) you contacted and people's individual reactions. Like they were trying to be supportive, but didn't really know what to say or are they prepared to give support with empathy and compassion? You say, your university is very supportive, but it would be great to see how it works and what it looks like in detail. Thank you.

    1. Hey Melinda, I will definitely keep that in mind and try and do a more detailed post on that soon! I hope you keep reading my blog so you can see it in the new year :)