Tell me how you really feel

What it’s like studying with mental health issues in a pandemic

15th February 2021
With added self-study due to reduced timetables and fewer weeks per semester, it’s no surprise semester two is already taking its toll on Newcastle students. Lecturers across the board have given up asking how we are, because they are tired of negative responses. Way past yoga and mindfulness, students are ready for wide scale reform to how the University approaches mental health and well-being.

I am not going to even pretend. My mental health is dire. I have been on medication for two years and back when we were able to visit our family, it helped significantly. I was able to laugh more than I had ever done before. Since the pandemic began, my medication has been increased twice to the maximum dose of this drug. I would never advocate for not taking prescription medication, but without the pandemic, I would not need this dose.

I have been reported to the Council as vulnerable. Nobody seems to know what that means other than being handed the Newcastle crisis team number. I am receiving the maximum support on offer, from fatigued NHS working parents, an exhausted partner, the Council and the University.

With a lack of funds, I must simply carry on

I've expressed to the University well-being service before that I do not have the funds to suspend my studies. Now, I am faced with the fact that I must simply carry on.

The best thing the University and Students’ Union have offered is the Postgraduate Officer’s mental health week. It featured things like actual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions, a medically approved method to manage both severe anxiety and depression. It offered so much more than the meditation sessions on offer to us mere undergrads.

But on the whole, the University has failed us. Yes, we can apply for Personal Extenuating Circumstance forms without evidence. But this does not change the fact that I needed two weeks of university absence due to bereavement and mental health issues. This does not stop my grades from slipping day by day. I have gone from aspiring for a first to praying for a pass. And the worst thing is, I am far from the only one in this position.

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