Accessing Support Services at Cambridge – #MHAW17

Content note: intermission, self-harm, eating disorders
Written by Sophie Buck.

There’s support available on a number of levels: student, college, university, local and national.

At the student level, there are a range of areas through which you can seek – or provide – support. Peer2Peer is available to members of all colleges. Additionally, Nightline, a student-run anonymous listening service is available during term-time nights – volunteers are just waiting for you to contact them! Additionally, while more representational, there are CUSU-trained JCR/MCR officers (e.g. welfare officers), who can provide a listening ear and/or information about further support available (see your JCR/MCR website’s welfare section); note the limits of their time and expertise though. CUSU autonomous (/liberation) campaigns also offer solidarity with struggles on a wider scale, as well as a range of student-written resources, e.g. on intermission. Finally, Student Minds Cambridge and Blueprint help voice students’ mental health experiences.

At the college level, your tutor is key for mental health support, both as a listening ear, and administratively, e.g. if you’re applying for intermission or financial support. If your tutor is a poor fit or unavailable, you can email the senior tutor or (on-)duty tutor (via the porters), respectively. Your Director of Studies is also available, but is more academic-centred, as well as the college chaplain (regardless of your faith). Your college nurse can provide support with mental health problems, and usefully has medical knowledge so can dress self-harm wounds or provide support with eating disorders, among other things. Some colleges have a mental health advisor and/or counsellor in addition to a nurse. Given that mental health problems can be classed as disabilities, your college’s Disability Liaison Officer may be a useful contact. Finally, porters can provide another listening ear, as well as more emergency-focused practical support.

At a university level, there are three key support services for mental health problems. The University Counselling Service offers individual and group counselling (see wait times), workshops and self-help guides. Moreover, as mentioned, mental health problems may make you eligible for reasonable adjustments, so make an appointment with the Disability Resource Centre to explore this. Finally, contact Students’ Unions’ Advice Service if you don’t know where to start, want to discuss your options, or have multiple inter-related issues (e.g. with work and mental health) and want support independent from your college.

Beyond the university, your GP can be important for accessing further treatment and support for mental health problems, such as medication. In a mental health crisis, NHS 111 (option 2) is available for support (line open 24hrs), and 999 for emergencies. Locally and nationally there are also a wide range of services available on more specific issues and for more specific groups (e.g. B-Eat for eating disorders), as well as a range of listening lines (e.g. Samaritans). The most useful information resource is Mind, for learning more about different mental health problems, hearing others’ experiences and finding suitable support.

Whichever mental healths support services you prefer, if you’re in need of support, seek it sooner rather than later: otherwise, problems are likely to get worse and harder to manage. Remember that your struggling is real and ‘enough’, and that you’re not weak or making a fuss if you seek support.

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