The other day we ran a zoom workshop for young people and one of the topics discussed was on support at university and what kind of affects having bipolar has on their time at university. It was interesting discussing what people’s concerns were on starting university or those who were in the midst of their university degree. University is hard enough without having something like bipolar or any mental health issue for that matter. University is a thrilling time, but it also brings with it pressure and stresses that left unattended can spiral downward pretty quickly.

The main thing to take away is that universities have a whole range of support systems in place to help freshers and all students navigate their way around university life. I want to make this very clear it is NOT a weakness to ask for help. Everyone at some point at university needs support and will go onto needing some more support and guidance in later on. The types of support you can get at university is varied from access to university mental health advisors that can offer one to one support which can last the duration of your time at university. Speaking from experience, when I was at Durham, I had 8 weeks one to one counselling sessions to help me deal with the stress of assignments, exams and also help with my depressed feelings and grief of losing my dad at 17. As well as counselling services offered by the majority of universities you can also benefit from adapted exam arrangements such as extra time and access to a computer for written assignments and extended assignment deadlines too.

In addition to using all the services offered at Durham I also spent a vast amount of time with our student welfare officer who was an amazing human being who I had the pleasure of spending many an afternoon crying and talking about my woes. I always ended up leaving her office much happier than when I had arrived. I found her office to be a safe place where I could open up and speak frankly about things that were on my mind. My student support officer or how I liked to refer to her as the John Snow college mum perfectly summed up how I was when I was high by referring to me at times as being "Fizzy". This term is now how I describe my highs to people as it perfectly sums up how I'm feeling but also how I can be a fizzy energy drink that is bursting of energy and just itching to come out. This energy that I have inside can bubble over at times when I tip into mania and just like a shaken fizzy can drink the bubbles can come tumbling out over some poor soul that has the misfortune to not tap the can a couple of times before trying to open it. This bubbling over of the fizz doesn’t last long and then I crash into a depression. I hope you like that analogy of how bipolar can be like. I digress. 

Lastly, what came out of the discussion was that sometimes people found it difficult to ask for their assignment deadlines to be extended. This was mainly due to feeling guilty about needing them extended, for me I felt this big sense of shame of not being good enough to get things done on time without needing the extra support and help. From the discussion we discovered that sadly not all universities were easy to give support or offer help and it was really luck of the draw on the support you got that was largely down to the university you went to. I was blessed as at Durham there was a wealth of support available to students. I would recommend when choosing your university that a top priority is making sure they have a good student well-being service so that you have good support during your time at university.

 

If you missed the workshop there will be another one commencing on the 13th of October at 3PM. Here is the link to register:  https://www.bipolaruk.org/forms/bipolar-uk-online-specialist-support-groups

Finally, at bipolar UK we offer a number of services from our peer support line where you can speak to someone who has experience with bipolar, number: 0333 323 3880.

We have our eCommunity which you can join that is available 24/7, is moderated and anonymous. (https://ecommunity.bipolaruk.org/entry/signin?Target=categories)

 

Lastly, we have our support groups and zoom meetings. (https://www.bipolaruk.org/blog/update-regarding-our-peer-support-group)