Surviving University When You Have a Mental Health Condition

One of my teachers once said that I soak up knowledge like a sponge and in all fairness, she’s not far wrong!

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with education: I love learning but I’ve always hated the school environment.

From the day I started school to the day I walked out after my final exam, I was bullied & it’s had a pretty big impact on the rest of my life.

I was very lucky with the university I did my HND (Higher National Diploma) at, it was very small and I only had 7 people in my class.

To be fair I’d have been surprised if there were more than 500 people enrolled throughout the entire university!

Photo by Rizky Subagja on Unsplash

Everyone in my class was lovely and I actually still miss them even a year on. We all had similar interests and everyone was really inclusive, I never felt left out or included only because they had to talk to me.

It was a great experience, I made some of my best memories there and for the first (and probably last) time ever, I actually couldn’t wait to go back after the Christmas and Easter holidays!

Normally I’ve enjoyed getting back to doing work and learning but I’ve never wanted to go back to see the people in my class too.

Guess there’s a first time for everything!

When the course was over and it was time for us to go to different Uni’s to complete our top-ups, I was actually quite sad.

Me, the person who quite literally ran out of both primary and secondary school without a backwards glance on the last day, feeling sad at the thought of leaving.

I’d blame the medication but I wasn’t even on any at the time!

Those warm fuzzy feelings didn’t last though.

I progressed onto the digital media course at Sheffield Hallam and it’s almost laughable how excited I was to get accepted at a “real” university.

That happiness didn’t last long!

Photo by Kirill on Unsplash

Within the first week, I realised this was going to be like secondary school all over again with everyone had their own little groups, and of course, the immature boys who started with the snide comments almost the second I sat down.

I basically spent the first week completely isolated and alone in a room of over 20 people.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling depressed and questioning if I wanted to carry on with this for the next two years.

I must have considered quitting at least once a week for that first semester and each morning I had to force myself to get up, get dressed and walk up to the train station.

My attendance dropped and my motivation to do coursework became none existent.

Get some help

Luckily the support department at university set up a Learning Contract set up for me.

This explains to my tutors what mental health conditions I have, how they might affect me and gives me access to extensions to deadlines.

Not only that but because of it, I’m able to work from home when my anxiety or depression get too bad for me to make it in, which was definitely a lifesaver in those first few months!

Take mental health days

University is really intense and all that stress and pressure isn’t good for your mental health.

This one applies even if you don’t have a mental illness: take a break!

Take some time away from work and relax. I know it’s easier said than done, especially if you’re a worrier like me who’s brain doesn’t seem to have an off switch.

Creating and using a Mental Health Survival Kit has been a lifesaver for me, it’s stopped me burning out and having a breakdown.

Plus it’s an excuse to eat chocolate and play on the Xbox!

Photo by Ruben Gutierrez on Unsplash

Lists, lists, lists!

Lists are honestly my best friend, I rely on them so much.

At the start of each project, I create a general to-do list so I know what I need to include in the project to get the highest mark.

Then once I’ve settled on what I’m doing in the project I’ll make another list of each task I have to do for it.

I know this will be different for each person, with my course being design based I don’t have to do a lot of things people on say a journalism course would, but just adapt the idea so it fits you!

Admit when you’re struggling

I hate admitting I’m not instantly perfect at something, it one of my biggest faults. I’ll just keep trying until I finally figure out how to do something.

Or you know, YouTube it.

But asking for help isn’t a bad thing! Whether it’s help with a project you’re struggling with or if you feel that things are getting too much, reach out to either your tutor or student support.

Don’t struggle through on your own, there is support out there to help you when you need it.

I’m dreading next year, it’s going to be a miracle if I manage to get through it without killing someone or Chris leaving me.

But once it’s over and I’ve got a First Class Degree (edit: I actually did get a First!) it will all just be a bad memory!

People say university is the best time of your life where you make your best friends. That may be true for some people, but that definitely hasn’t been the case for me.

What tips do you have for surviving university when you have a mental health condition?

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Surviving University When You Have a Mental Health Condition

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  • Dani says:

    Fantastic post, really powerful! Keep going 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips. I wish I had some of these tips when I started university. I had some real hard times at uni due to depression and anxiety, and it took a long time before I actually decided to get professional help. Even though I’ve finished uni, there are some tips you shared which will still be useful for me now

    I’m sure your tips will also be very helpful to others in a similar situation!

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much! I’m sorry to hear you had a bad time at uni 🙁 everyone makes out that it is a fantastic time (and it can be) but I think more needs to be done to explain how hard it can be for those of us with mental health and do more to help us cope!

    I hope you can use some of these tips even though you’ve finished 🙂

  • Tina Jones says:

    Hi there! I really loved the honesty of your post! I especially appreciated your section on admitting when you are struggling. It is something I have a hard time doing because I feel so much pressure to pretend I have it all together. I’m slowly getting better at it and I feel so encouraged to see someone else be vocal about their mental illness struggle! I would love for you to check out some of my blog posts on mental illness! My site is Thanks for taking the time to read this comment!

  • So brave of you to share such intimate details about you! Love your tips and I think it can – and should be fitted into everyone’s life. Taking a break is so underestimated but makes such a difference both on your work you’re doing and of course on your mental health💛

  • I can definitely see how the pressure and stress of university would weight heavily and be hard to handle from time to time. I am really glad that your school had a good support system in place to make things a little bit easier!

  • I love this post! I’ve just started my postgrad and though I just about survived my undergrad, I can sense the impending struggles to come. I’m totally with you on taking days off to focus on your mental health and self care, I always find that they can really help with resetting, especially during essay writing season! Thanks for sharing!

    Emily Aagaard //

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