University life: When things got bad, all I had to do was ask!
Third year Paramedic Science student at St Georges University, London Lauren encountered changes in her personal life that subsequently impacted upon her studies.
"I was truly running on empty."
She says, “In first year, a lot happened at once. My parents went through a divorce and I experienced a lot of difficulty navigating through daily university life. I needed a part-time job as my family had to withdraw all the financial support they were giving me as a result of the separation.
“I was worried that the university would kick me out if I told them that I felt I was underperforming due to my mental health.
“In second year, things worsened as one of my parents lost their home - my childhood home. This set off a series of events including, one of my parents having to find a new job, rehoming nearly all our pets as we couldn’t afford to keep them anymore and finding a new home in the space of about five weeks.”
"I was truly running on empty."
Lauren continues, “I’d had a feeling at this point that the Paramedic Science department had an idea that things weren’t running smoothly for me. Lecturers always took the time to ask me how I was doing and, when I missed a few days of university, the pastoral lead of our course emailed me to check everything was okay.
“A month or so later, I realised that I was truly running on empty. I met with the pastoral lead the same day as I emailed them asking for help. They immediately came up with a plan of action for me. I was advised to see a GP as soon as possible about how I was feeling and to keep them updated on what they recommended I should do. Secondly, they offered to postpone all my upcoming exams and assignments by granting extensions if I felt I needed them.”
"All this help was readily available and I hadn’t known."
Lauren explains, “My tutor advised me to stay home for any lectures that I felt I would be better off learning from home. I was in the middle of a very intense mental health module that left even the most energetic and optimistic of our cohort needing a bit of a lie down. I was astounded that all this help was readily available the whole time and I hadn’t known.
“I was referred to a psychiatrist by my GP who drew up a plan for me involving regular hospital appointments. Although I did my best to prevent these appointments clashing with university, when they did, all I had to do was email the pastoral lead and they would okay it. As the year went on, I kept in contact with the pastoral lead on a weekly basis and met up with them in person at least once a month to chat. They advised me to meet with financial services at the university who were able to give me a means-tested grant. This enabled me to cut down on my hours at my part-time job, which was amazing.”
"All I needed was someone to speak to.
Lauren says, “For me, all I needed was someone to speak to when I could feel myself getting overwhelmed. The paramedic pastoral lead is also a main lecturer and a module lead for the course so I would see them frequently. This meant I had a significant level of trust in them. If I hadn’t already met the pastoral lead, I suspect I would not have felt comfortable enough to seek them out on my own. This, for me, is one of the biggest benefits of St George’s being a small university.
“Furthermore, it was a huge relief that, when I did seek support, the response was a rolling up of sleeves and a ‘right, what can we do to keep you in university and studying?’ as opposed to ‘you are not well enough to be here, come back next year when you are’. I made it clear that university was a strength in my life that enabled me to create goals and work towards them. It was where my friends were and was the reason I lived where I did. I was listened to and my thoughts were taken into account.”
“Before I started feeling this way I used to have a really good routine with studying and going to the gym and cooking for myself - I lost interest in doing those things so I ended up gaining a little bit of weight which contributed to me feeling worse. I felt like I was losing interest in doing all the things I loved.”
"I've learnt more about myself here than anywhere else
“I’ve got myself the job I wanted as an FY1 doctor in Ipswich hospital so I'll be moving there at the end of July. I’m very excited and really happy to be starting a new life. While I have loved being at George's, and I've learnt more about myself here than anywhere else, I think it's the right time to finally move on. I have made some amazing friends and can't wait to see what the future holds!