THE BLOG

Let's Do Something About Mental Health at Universities

08/12/2014 20:01 GMT | Updated 07/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Recently, I wrote a post about my experience with stigma when applying for a position as a camp counsellor at Camp Canada, a branch of AmeriCamp in their neighbouring country.

I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received when I came out about it, especially as I was quite worried about it. Friends and family supported me massively, I was asked to write guest blogs about mental health and I was fortunate enough to be asked to appear on BBC Radio Wales (where I met the absolutely lovely Jason Mohammed) to speak about my experience. It was completely wonderful and harrowing at the same time.

This situation made me truly understand how much of an issue mental health is, not just in the workplace, but also in our everyday lives. Now that I've started studying for my Masters at Cardiff University, I can't help but reflect on and wonder how universities approach mental health, having had just over three years experience of being in the university mental health system.

Since I began my postgraduate degree at Cardiff University this September, I've been sent a couple of emails in which I've been invited to meet the mental health team, and discuss my needs as a student with a mental health issue during my studies. I've yet to meet them properly, though I'm due to have a meeting with them next week, and I'm optimistic that it will go well.

My undergraduate degree, however, panned out a little differently.

I remember feeling very isolated during my undergraduate degree. It is extremely easy to slip through the cracks, especially as mental health issues can increase isolation anyway. I remember feeling anxious, scared and upset throughout quite a bit of it, and I remember long lists for counselling and begrudgingly using the limited services available.

Despite a very active students' union who truly did their best to raise awareness of mental health, (and in my eyes, did it extremely well), I don't believe that my needs as a student with a mental illness were met fully.

The problem at Swansea University is that the mental health team are not supported anywhere near enough to how much they should be. Whilst I was a student, I received countless emails for the mental health services team saying they were closing early that day, that activities wouldn't be available or that spaces were limited, because they simply didn't have the staff to support them.

It's a shame that during my time there I can't really remember seeing anything outside of the students' union that immediately stood out to me as offering the help I needed at the time I needed it. While it's wonderful that the university had set aside a place specifically for people to go with worries about their mental health, or to seek counselling, it was never available 24/7, and it was closed much of the time.

Mental health doesn't work to a nine to five schedule - it is a constant thing and I truly believe the university could have adapted to the constant mental health clock had they had the means to do so.

In hindsight, I realise I should have spoken up whilst I was a student, and lobbied the university to prioritise mental health and provide the means necessary to enact change. In this case, I simply slipped through the cracks of their poorly funded mental health services.

In the case of Swansea University, and other universities across the UK, there are simply not enough resources for all the students that require the support they need. Waiting times for counsellors are long, but they are long everywhere and for everyone, not just those at university.

Something needs to be done to raise awareness of mental health issues and I am hoping that someone at Swansea University reads this and makes the necessary changes so that no student needs to leave them feeling as let down by their services as I do.

In fact, I hope officials at universities across the UK get the chance to read this post and take a look at their mental health services. With this post in mind from a lowly student, maybe they will make the necessary changes to prioritise the mental health of their students.