Studying Abroad in the U.K. with a Disability and Mental Illness

November 10, 2019

About Me

Let me start by stating my diagnoses: I have borderline personality disorder which, simply put, means extreme depression and anxiety. I also have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic body pain disorder. Both of these conditions affect my life in many ways; getting up every morning in pain, difficulty concentrating, overthinking, overstressing, self-harming. It is hard to manage my life without that extra support. Haven’t you had days when you are feeling so upset that you don’t feel like doing anything yet at the same time you feel so guilty because you know have a ton of assignments to submit? Yeah, same. I feel that every day and without any support, everything can quickly become overwhelming.

Past Experience

I have lived and studied in two countries, Japan and India, where mental health is a taboo or just not talked about. It has to be kept like a shameful secret. Especially in Japan where the “suck it up” attitude is encouraged and being depressed is seen as a sign of weakness and laziness. Thus, because of that stigma, I struggled a lot at my home university. There weren’t enough decent and affordable resources to get help from. Thankfully most of my professors were understanding so I got by but still with a lot of hardships.

Experience in the U.K.

When I came to Bradford University in the U.K., I was completely blown away by the array of resources and support systems available here. Here they have on-campus free counselling sessions that I have been going to and so far they have been pretty helpful. They also have a whole team called Disability Services, dedicated to helping students with all sorts of disabilities and mental health conditions. I never even thought I would be eligible for that kind of aid because all my life nobody took my conditions seriously. The disability services team has been very kind to me and has helped me a lot. They have provided me with a learner’s support program (LSP) which is basically a list of benefits that I am entitled to. These benefits aren’t the same for everyone, they alter it according to the needs of each student. Moreover, these benefits aren’t like advantages over my other peers, rather it is to bring me to equal footing as them. So far my LSP has been really helpful for me with regards to understanding my classes better and making my coursework less stressful. For instance, my LSP allows me to record lectures, avail study coach services who help me organize my schedule better, have one-on-one sessions with my professors just in case I was too anxious to ask any questions in class.

The benefit of being in this country is that there is an open dialogue about mental health and therefore there are many services apart from what the university provides that one can use like the NHS (National Health Services), First Responders, Good Samaritans, etc. Overall my experience so far studying abroad has been a really positive one and I am loving it, especially because of all the help I have been receiving here.

I encourage all of you to take care of your mental health wherever you are. In the meantime, here is a picture of my angel doggo looking over you all.

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