Starting university comes with fresh challenges, so here’s how to find the help you need
Going to university can be an exciting time. With the chance to focus on a subject you love, make friends, and try new experiences, many find student life enjoyable and fulfilling. But starting university can also be daunting. And if you have a mental health problem, or another health condition, it can be even harder to adjust to student life.
Thankfully, there’s lots of support available to help you make the most of your time at university. Here’s how to access it.
Speak to the disability team
Often, the first port of call is speaking to the disability team at your university. This service is there for students with any additional needs, including mental health conditions, dyslexia, sensory impairments, and physical disabilities. They are used to supporting people, so don’t be nervous about approaching them.
It’s best if you can reach out to them before you start, to make sure they can arrange support from your first day, but don’t worry if you’ve already started – they are available to help you anytime.
Disability teams often have disability advisors who you can meet with to talk through what’s known as ‘reasonable adjustments’. This, for example, could mean they recommend you get extra time on exams, because you have a condition that affects your reading or concentration.
Your university’s website should have the contact details for the disability team, as well as info about what they provide.
Apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance
You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). This is additional funding that helps cover extra costs of being a disabled student – including having a support worker, or help towards the cost of equipment.
What you get depends on your individual circumstances – you have to fill in a form and have an assessment to decide what would be best for you. There’s more information about DSA at gov.uk.
Don’t worry if you feel daunted by the application process, the disability team at your university will be able to help.
Speak to someone
If you’re struggling, it’s OK to reach out. Lecturers and staff are used to helping, whether you’re finding it hard living in halls or are overwhelmed by work. And if you’re worried about deadlines or feel stressed, letting your lecturers know means they can be more understanding. Sometimes, having a chat is enough to make you feel better. They may also be able to suggest practical ideas to help.
Universities usually have their own counselling service for students, offering the chance talk about anything that’s troubling you. Check your university’s website or speak to the student support team to find out what’s available where you are.
You may also find that your university runs wellbeing sessions that are open to all students. These can cover things like dealing with stress or learning mindfulness, and are worth checking out.
Support from your students’ union
Students’ unions are run to support students, and are great resources. Many will have their own student advice service, and are useful to speak to if you’re having an issue with your university.
You may find that your students’ union has a group or runs events especially for disabled students, or those with a mental health condition. These can be a fantastic way to meet new people, as well as access mutual support and raise any concerns you have.
Students’ unions run clubs and societies that are led by students, and are a perfect way to make friends. These are one of the best ways to meet new people and settle in at university, as well as giving you the chance to try something fun. If you’re feeling anxious about joining a group, you can contact someone involved to introduce yourself and ask any questions beforehand, or to ask them to look out for you when you first come along to a session.
Whatever stage you’re at in your student journey, remember that there is support available to help you flourish and enjoy your time at university.
If you would like support with your mental health, visit the Counselling Directory or speak to a qualified counsellor.