Applying to a university as academically rigorous and prestigious as Oxford, I was worried that, despite being ambitious and loving my subject, the doubts of my competence that came with my mental health condition would get in the way of me doing my best. It’s true that during my time here I have had difficult times, but there are provisions and fellow students are not as stoically hard-working as people expect. There are many people here who have experiences of mental health struggles who are achieving, and who want to support each other.
I’ve seen the mental health support at Oxford from a few angles – both as a student dealing with mental health difficulties and needing support, and as a peer supporter and mental health advocate within the university. I’ll be honest, like other universities, Oxford isn’t always stellar when it comes to dealing with mental health. However, there are people here who want to help and will support you and make sure you get the right support and help, and there are many people who have experiences of mental health difficulties and will support their peers also struggling. Having a mental health problem does not mean that you are not ‘cut out’ for Oxford, or that you cannot achieve or that you don’t deserve to be here. In this article I will explain a few of the ways that you can find support at Oxford, so that you can be confident in your decision of applying and happy that you know where you could find support. I have also written a previous article detailing support for disabled students, and much of the information there will also be relevant.
Making the decision to disclose
When you apply to university you have the option to disclose disabilities (including mental health conditions), or you can disclose once you have an offer and are coming up (or any time during your degree). This will not factor into you being admitted (interviewers will not know this information at all). But it can mean that you are eligible to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance (through student finance). If you are approved, after an informal interview, you may be offered (funded) support for your studies. For mental health this may include assistive technology, a specialist mentor, special exam arrangements, extended library loans and many other options. Even if you do not have a specific diagnosis, sufficient doctor’s evidence of your health condition can allow you to qualify.
College – Welfare & Disability Coordinators
Every college has both staff and student welfare support. Your JCR or MCR will have welfare reps and peer supporters, who are trained in listening skills to support any students who need to talk through anything. They may also have a disabilities rep who can advocate for the needs of students with disabilities, including mental health conditions, within your college. Equally, your college with have staff welfare coordinators, a nurse, and a team who will support and advocate for you if you need support. They can also refer you on to other services if you need.
More on the support offered by the wider uni, in Julia's next post.