Blog written by 21-year-old Katie Sinfield, a mental health advocate at the University of Leicester. These are her views which she is sharing with ITV Central.
Hi, my name is Katie. I am studying for a Geology degree at the University of Leicester, and I am a mental health advocate. This is my story.
I was diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder in November 2015 after having the courage to talk to my GP. My behaviour had changed and it was seriously worrying me. I was skipping lectures at university, having daily panic attacks, and so exhausted that it would always be a genuine struggle to get out of my bed.
My GP was really good with me, assuring that what I was experiencing was treatable. It made me realise that my problems had been going on for longer than I thought – I now know that I actually struggled with self-harm in my early teen years.
The medication helped to keep my erratic moods somewhat stable, but it was still impacting on my ability to study. So a few months later I made the decision to suspend my studies for a whole year. If I tried to carry on I most likely would have dropped out of university completely.
I am a fighter, but I also know when the right time is for me to take a step back and go slower. And looking back now, it was absolutely the right decision!
Over my year of suspense, I didn’t cut myself off from university. I did just the opposite. I got involved with societies that focused on campaigning against mental health stigma, I had regular appointments with the counselling service on campus, and even got part-time work.
Determined to stay in Leicester to improve my mental wellbeing, I also tried to keep up with my course by copying up lectures in my own time that I still had access to.
I was faced with negativity from friends and family, as they did not understand why I needed to take a break – it was against the norm. But I followed through with my decision and as soon as I started back studying at the end of January this year, I saw an immediate difference!
I was able to be comfortable in lecture theatres again and concentrate on the work required. It has been such a relief! The underlying symptoms are still with me, but I can certainly cope a whole lot better.
I have been open with my own mental health difficulties for over a year now, and I have a great passion for speaking out and helping others. I’m not afraid anymore. My experiences have made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I have mental health difficulties, and have had to learn to manage them at university. But as I have found along my journey so far, you can still thrive!
The University of Leicester offers individual study support for students with a diagnosed condition. This provision is through the AccessAbility Centre.They also offer student counselling which helps students to work through difficulties to develop coping strategies and get appropriate support where needed.