Now that I am back at university, I have less time to blog. Sorry about that. But to make up for it I have compiled a list of things you really should do if you are a university student who suffers from depression. I hope you find it useful.
1. Register With a GP
Unless you're living at home while you're studying, you'll probably need to register with a local GP. It really is better to register with a practice as close to your university accommodation as possible, especially if you take medication and need regular prescriptions. Most universities provide students with contact information for near-by practices, but you can also search for a GP near you on the NHS website.
2. Get Referred to Local Psychiatric Services
Once you've registered with a local GP, it's a good idea to go see them as soon as possible and get them to refer you to local mental health services. You can also contact whoever was in charge of your care when you were at home, and ask them to write to your new GP and ask them to refer you. There are usually waiting lists, so do it sooner rather than later.
3. Meet Your Academic Contacts
All universities have a support service for students with disabilities, and it's a good idea to set up an appointment with them as soon as possible so you can ask them what they offer, and how you can access their services. Most academic departments also have their own tutors or advisors who you can go to if you have problems, so introduce yourself now and make sure they know about your condition (and bring medical evidence). It's good to have these contacts in place so that if you ever need an extension on a deadline or an exam concession, they can sort it out quickly without needing to ask questions.
4. Sign-Up For an Activity You Enjoy
Most universities have a 'Fresher's Fair' where you can find out all about the societies, sports and activities on offer. It's a really good idea to sign up for for one activity you know you will love, as an antidote to the stress of studying. Experimenting with new activities can help your self-esteem, and you might make your best friends there.
5. Buy Earplugs
If you live in a university halls of residence, trust me, you will need them at some point.
6. Avoid too much alcohol
Okay, I know it completely goes against the university stereotype and some people will think you're, like, totally uncool. However, large amounts of alcohol tend to have a chemically depressive effect on the brain. Which is a really, really bad idea when your brain is already chemically depressed. Having a couple of drinks is okay, but more than that and you could find yourself feeling extremely low, and since alcohol also makes you more impulsive, there's always the risk that you could act on suicidal thoughts. Cutting down on alcohol doesn't have to stop you socialising, just drink soft drinks, water or juice in between the alcoholic ones, so it doesn't add up to too much. If you're taking medication, always check with your doctor if it's okay to drink alcohol while you're on it.
7. Be Realistic
This is a tough one, but a very important one. Don't expect too much of yourself. There will always be some people who are more compatible with you than others, so you can't possibly get on really well with everybody. You can't read everything on your reading list. Read what you can, according to what you're going to write an essay about/talk about in a tutorial etc.
8. Apply for Disabled Student's Allowance
If you're a student and you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, or any other mental health problem, you could be eligible for Disabled Student's Allowance. DSA is a kind of government grant which helps fund extra support for disabled university students. It helps pay for any specific equipment or support you might need, like one-to-one support . You can download an application form by clicking on the link below. You'll also need a letter from a doctor or from your psychiatrist which explains that you have a diagnosed mental health condition, and how they think it might affect your studies. Click here to download an application form.