‘I could have taken my own life’: student opens up about mental health at UoB

Is the uni really that bad at dealing with mental health?

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Birmingham was recently rated the tenth worst university in the UK at dealing with mental health in The Tab’s inaugural 2016 Mental Health Rankings. So, we decided to conduct an interview with a student struggling with their mental health at UoB. The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, revealed the problems they faced at Birmingham, and the reality of living with mental health problems while studying here.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your experiences with mental health? 

I’m a 19 year old, second year English Language Student. I have struggled with depression and anxiety, as well as an eating disorder since the age of 15/16. I lost four friends and my grandma in less than two years and I think that was when I realised that how I was feeling wasn’t normal. The things that I used to enjoy I no longer did, I had very little energy to do anything. I lashed out at loved ones for tiny little reasons. I had no connection to anything. I had no physical or mental capability of doing anything. I would be bed ridden for a day if not days on end. I felt empty. I felt numb. I had no reason to live. That’s what I thought. I turned to starving myself, I turned to harming myself wherever I thought would be most painful, hips, legs, wrists. And there were two attempts of suicide. I thought it was a phase, and my family said to me that everyone goes through feeling like this as some point, and so I suppressed it and suffered in silence. It wasn’t until six months ago, that it finally got too much and I decided it was time to get help. That was when I was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

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What problems have you had at the uni?

Since being at university, I have attempted suicide again, and my self harming increased dramatically. I hated myself. The pressure I felt from myself and from the university and just from society was too much. It felt like I was drowning and I didn’t have the strength to kick myself back to air.

Has the university been good overall in dealing with your mental health?

I would personally say no. I have received very little support so far from the university. I had an initial assessment in the last term of my first year, but that got me nowhere. They told me to continue on my medication and see if going home helped and come back to them for another assessment if I still felt the same in the new term. But I already told them I wasn’t sure I would be coming back because I didn’t feel like I had the support at uni. The welfare tutors filled out the forms that needed to be filled in but that was that, there was no discussion of future potential support.

What things have they done to help so far?

I signed up to a support group, and so far they have assessed me for that and have accepted me onto the course, but that will only help with one of the areas I need help in. I also used the student mentor team that were on the Vale last year. They were there just to listen. But that was a lot more than the actual university was doing.

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How could the uni improve with their resources?

There needs to be a greater number of people to meet the demands that they are coming across. I understand that they have a lot of people coming to them and they only have a limited number of staff, but after my assessment I could have had to wait almost six to eight weeks for my first counselling session or most forms of support. In the state that I was, I could have taken my own life in that time.

Have you had any major problems with the uni?

With the actual university itself no, with the pressures and possibly some of the people I have met yes, but no nothing with the actual uni.

Would you agree with the fact that Birmingham was ranked the tenth worst uni in the UK in dealing with mental health?

I would agree that is not great. But then again I don’t have anything to compare it to. It definitely isn’t efficient enough, and the staff when you do get to finally see someone, I don’t find approachable or easy to talk to. I feel like I am being judged instead of having someone there to listen and help. I feel like they are another member of society who thinks this is someone making a deal about nothing.