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Disability Support at Loughborough University: Mental Health

5 August 2020

5 mins

Hi, I’m Chloe and like most first year students, I was delighted to have been accepted into Loughborough, my first-choice university, to study Sport and Exercise Science.

At 14 years old, this was my dream and it had finally become realityI was excited to start a course I knew I would love, to get involved in societies, play competitive hockey, meet new people and make life-long friends. Little did know; I was struggling so much with my mental health and it became very apparent when I moved away from home for the first time.

Difficulties adjusting

My mood was often low, I would tire very easily, I struggled concentrating in lectures and I was no longer enjoying playing sport or doing activities like I used to. Every day was an effort and a struggle to stay motivated and work hard. I so desperately wanted to be excited, full of energy and fully involved in university life, but my mental health was holding me back. Having never told anyone how I was feeling, after 2 months, realised I could no longer live like this so decided to speak to the GP on campus, only a 3-minute walk from my room. I explained what was going on, how I was feeling and what aspects of my life needed to changeAlthough unsurprised, finally hearing the words, “you have depression and anxiety was not easy, but it was a step-forward. 

Starting to get help

The GP told me that so many people were experiencing the same feelings, far more than I would ever expect and explained the university supports many students through a variety of services. In turn, I decided to seek out the advice and support from the university. I contacted the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) and Counselling and Disability Services. I completed a short application form found online for both the MHST and Counselling service. In less than a week, someone contacted me via email for an initial meeting to discuss what support I could receive. 

Tailoring my support

A member of the MHST met with me to discuss how I was feeling and what academic support could be put in place to improve my university experience and life in general. They set up regular pre-arranged meetings so I could speak to someone for 1 hour every month to assess my progress. Additionally, I was given 25% extra-time for my exams, a note-taker for lectures (notes which I could collect at the end of the week) and extended library book loans. The combination of this support reduced my stress and anxiety around university and particularly academic pressuresWith my consent, they also contacted my school to let them know I was struggling but was seeking support. They also advised I apply for Disability Student Allowance (DSA), a form that can be filled out online via Student Finance England, for additional funding and support. 

I then met with a member of the Counselling team for an initial session, which involved explaining why I was here and what had happened to result in me feeling this way. They arranged an hour’s session each week, for 6 weeks, where I could talk about my struggles and discuss my progress. 6 sessions wasn’t enough for me so they arranged another 6 sessions for the next semester to ensure I was given all the support I needed. They were easy to talk to and I easily opened-up to them about my struggles. 

Loughborough Student’s Union (LSU) also provided support to me throughout my time at university. LSU Academic Representation give advice and support around ‘Mitigating Circumstances’ (MC). If you are having a difficult time, you can apply for MC and your circumstances will be taken into consideration in terms of your academic performance. During my second year, I sought advice on how to write an MC claim and LSU arranged meetings with me so this could be discussed. They also checked my drafts and showed me what evidence I needed to prove my circumstances. With their help, my claim was successful, and I could retake 2 exams I had performed poorly in during the Seasonal Assessment Period (SAP) in August/September uncapped. Without their support, my university experience would have been a lot more stressful and having an opportunity to take these exams again gave me confidence that my degree mark wasn’t permanently affect by my poor mental health. 

Not being defined by my condition

Although it was a long journey to recovery and my first and second year was dampened by spells of depression and in my third year, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I still had the best university experience I could have asked for. Hard at times, I still graduated with everything I had dreamed of before coming to Loughborough University. Not only an undergraduate degree but a master’s degree, lots of experience through extra-curricular activities and voluntary roles, life-long friends and most importantly, happiness within myself. Something I didn’t know I needed four years ago but has been the best gain of all. 

If you arrive at Loughborough and feel a similar way to how I felt, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help because it is there, so easily accessible, and with so many people willing to help. The support services have enhanced my experience at university and I am so grateful. 

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