Seeking support at uni: What happened when I asked for help

06 Feb 2019
By Sophie M., Student at University of Edinburgh

Having suffered with anxiety throughout my first year, I understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by university life. Initially, I felt very alone and unsupported.

But once I found out about all of the support services available to me, and took the first steps to set up a support system, I realised how much help is actually out there.

I’m here to let you know about the support services that have helped me, so you know where to go if you need help too.

See your personal tutor for academic issues or general advice

As a staff member in your department, your personal tutor can help you with any academic issues, and guide you towards the other support services available at your university.

I was worried about telling my new personal tutor that anxiety affects me in lectures and tutorials, but there was no need to be. Not only was he able to point me to other support services, he offered to meet me more regularly to see how things are going.

Visit student support if you need extensions or special circumstances

Most universities have dedicated student support teams within each department. These teams are there to help you manage your workload, particularly in times of difficulty. They might be able to grant you an extension on an assignment, allow you to have special circumstances in order to retake an exam or redo an essay if you were ill, struggling with your mental health, or had a personal problem that meant you couldn’t do your work.

I had to ask for special circumstances when I was unable to sit one of my exams last year because of my mental health. The student support team were really understanding. They helped me with the forms I had to fill out, which meant I could resit the exam as a first attempt in the summer.

Seek out counselling from the counselling service

Every university should have a counselling service, whether they employ their own counsellors or they refer you to a trained counsellor nearby. It’s free to use and, although they usually specialise in short-term counselling, they often have shorter waiting lists than the NHS.

When I asked for counselling I was sceptical that the six sessions my university provides would be enough to help. However, I found that, at a particularly stressful time, having that additional support was invaluable. Even just the routine of seeing someone for an hour a week, every week made me feel so supported.

Don’t suffer in silence, let these people help

Ultimately, the most important thing I want to say to you, if you are struggling, is please don’t suffer in silence. Take the first step and get in touch with one, or even all, of these services at your university.

You will soon develop a support system that makes you feel far more able to cope.

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Sophie is a University of Edinburgh student studying Politics.