What to do if you experience mental health issues in Cambridge

There is never no hope.

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Don’t suffer in silence.

The sheer amount of contacts regarding mental health, many you probably aren’t aware of, which are available to you can feel overwhelming. Here is a broad list (in no particular order) of who to get in touch with if you experience mental health issues. Such issues, including depression, anxiety and perfectionism are rife in Cambridge. Exam term exaggerates these pressures even more.

We may feel like the world is against us, but that’s never the case. Of course, not every option here works for everybody, and welfare provision varies greatly from college to college. There is  support available for students in Cambridge,  but sometimes it’s true that we’re left unsure of who we’re meant to turn to.

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A trusted friend:

I’m sure everyone has told you this, but “letting it all out” really does help clear the mind. It’ll lift a weight of your shoulders. Bottling up thoughts and feelings can only end badly. Friends ARE your friends. They won’t think any differently of you for having a mental health issue. Spending time doing what you enjoy with your friends is a great way to unwind. They will support you and look out for you. “I’ll be there for you…”

JCR Welfare Officer:

These friendly faces in college have wonderfully devoted time those of us who feel overwhelmed, or even just want a chat. You could even drop them a Facebook message if you don’t feel like speaking face-to-face (which is completely understandable and acceptable) and they can give you comfort and advise. Some colleges even have a disabilities officer who deal with mental health too.

College Welfare Team:

The quality of college welfare advisors and councillors does vary widely, however in my experience (Queens’) they are angels, who will work endlessly to achieve the best course of action for you. This really is a fantastic free of charge service, and often works with drop-in appointments, so you don’t have to experience the anxiety of waiting (unlike with the UCS).

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Your college nurse:
Again, the quality of college nurses varies, but they are all qualified so they DO know what they’re talking about. They can also get you extremely quick (usually same or next day) doctors appointments, and recommend you a plan of action.
The university website has a section on welfare, and all college websites will too.

The university website has a section on welfare, and all college websites will too.

Your GP:

Your GP is the best point of call for the medical side of things. Calling a doctors surgery for an appointment regarding mental health may seem like a mountain on the first occasion, but trust me, it will honestly be a breeze (you don’t even need to say what the appointment is for). Medication is often used alongside psychological treatment (i.e counselling or CBT).

Your DoS and Tutor:

Always let your DoS know your situation. That way, they can arrange for you to do essay plans instead of full blown essays etc and take off some of that work related pressure. You might have to first figure out who your tutor actually is (usually somewhere on your college’s website) but after that you can drop them an email to arrange a meeting. They can talk you through various options such as intermission, passing the year with DDH and putting in an exam warning, to work out what is the best scenario for you.

Sometimes it's hard to ask the person who tears your essays apart weekly for help, but often they'll give you the respite from work you might desperately need.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask the person who tears your essays apart weekly for help, but often they’ll give you the respite from work you might desperately need.

UCS:

The University Counselling Service has an unacceptable waiting time of over five weeks. But the counsellors are of professional quality, and importantly, are free. Even if you don’t feel able to talk about yourself, I’ve found that in such a confidential environment it’s easy to talk, and talking helps to work out potential causes and solutions to how you’re feeling.

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A mental health advisor:

You do have to be referred to an MHA by another professional from the university (you cannot self refer) but these people are lovely. They’ll make everything in your head seem so much more rational. MHAs are also brilliant at fighting your corner for intermission/DDH applications when you don’t have the energy (it’s exhaustingly stressful).

Linkline:

Linkline is a student-run phone listening service for Cambridge students. It’s anonymous and confidential, and great to clear your mind. Linkline can also find other ways for you to get support if you ask. Contact Linkline on 01223 744444, or talk using instant messenger at linkline.org.uk.
SUAS:
The Students’ Union Advice Service (www.studentadvice.cam.ac.uk) can help you figure out where to go. They can also organise all the above support for you, for example getting you seen at the UCS more quickly, or organise a meeting with your tutor etc. The SUAS endeavour to reply to all contact, including email, within 12 hours. Drop by, email ([email protected]), or phone (01223746999) and they’ll be happy to help.
Remember: you’re never alone.