World Mental Health Day is an incredible opportunity for people to start conversations about their experiences with mental health difficulties and recovery. For many university students, finding the courage to even consider speaking about these topics can be a daunting task, and I as well as many others have often been left thinking, ‘where do I start?’. Well, I believe the best way to start is a little nudge in the right direction from someone who understands. After 3 years using all the support services at Sheffield Hallam, I’ve come up with the ultimate list of the best services I think they have to offer:
1. Wellbeing services (professional support)
Let’s start with the basics. Though a scary thought at first, once you book an appointment and force yourself out of bed down to the Wellbeing Centre in the Owen building and get seated in front of one of the friendly faces there, it becomes a safe haven for some really helpful, confidential and professional support. Whether you think your problems are too small or too intense to speak about, there will be someone there that can understand what you are going through and help you make a plan of steps you can take to help your journey into recovery.
2. Learning contracts (academic support)
Secondly, as much as we like to pretend we’re all just here for a good time, we have to remember at some point that it’s our degree qualification that’s the priority. If your struggles are starting to negatively influence your studies, that is normal. Stop beating yourself up about it and get down to student support services to book an appointment. I wished so badly that I had gone earlier as I was offered a “learning contract”, meaning that my tutors are made aware of the fact that I sometimes struggle to make lessons (and deadlines) and I can have swiftly approved deadline extensions if I’m going through a tough time. It is the one shining light that has saved my degree from being lost in the void of my mental breakdowns.
3. Mental Health Matters society (community support)
As a commuter, I haven’t yet had chance to join in many of the incredible things the Mental Health Matters Society has done recently, but I have followed it closely and read all about it on their social media pages. It is truly impressive. Even if you’re not too interested in telling your story, joining a community of people dedicated to helping end the stigma attached to speaking out about mental health can do wonders for realising that you’re not alone. (And you get to help others in the process!)
4. Big White Wall (anonymous community support)
If the idea of community support sounds like it might work for you, but you don’t feel comfortable showing your face or meeting people, then Big White Wall is an incredible service offered by Hallam. As an anonymous, online community dedicated to all avenues of mental health difficulties, you can join different groups, post questions, join in conversations, take assessments to track your progress, and loads more.
5. DSA (financial support)
Finally, I have learnt that mental health and finances can be directly linked. It can be hard to hold down jobs, you may (as I did) have to move closer to home to be around your support groups and have the added cost of commuting into Sheffield, or you may need extra support for medical bills or extra equipment. The student support services at Hallam can also help you apply for DSA (disabled students’ allowance) which can cover a whole range of things. You don’t have to struggle through University with the added stress of finance!
I wish I had known all of the amazing services Hallam had offered when I first started so I could have utilised them sooner, so now I’m just glad I have the platform to share them all with you. Don’t struggle through on your own, and, as hard as it might be, remember it’s always okay to ask for help.