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3.4 Stress and Mental Health


Studying at University and being away from home can be stressful. If you experience stress, anxiety or depression, it is important that you understand that the Collegiate system provides numerous safety nets that can help you cope with whatever you may be experiencing. Sometimes things clear up relatively quickly and easily. At other times the worst thing to do can be to keep a problem to yourself in the hope that it will simply go away. It is best to talk things over at an early stage rather than leaving them until they reach crisis point before seeking help. You can access lots of support. A particularly good initial way forward, preferably taken before a concern escalates, is to make use of the extensive resources provided by the University to support self-care in managing stress and anxiety. 

Talking things over with your Tutor is the best first step. Tutors have a lot of experience in supporting students. Tutors, the Nurse, or other senior member of the College can help to find a solution; but should problems arise for which professional counselling is required, they may advise you to consult your General Practitioner or the University Counselling Service. You can also do this without telling your Tutor, but for a variety of reasons (in particular that your academic progress or examinations may be affected) it is best to discuss it with them. If you do consult any of these outside services there will be no reference back to your Tutor or your parents without your consent.

There are College and University funds that can help with particular health, disability and mental health issues. One example is Crane's Fund but there are others. Please consult your Tutor to find out more.

If you face problems we hope that you will feel there is someone sympathetic to turn to in Selwyn. We also recognize that sometimes a student might prefer to talk to someone without any connection to the College. It is worth noting, too, that the GPs in central Cambridge have a great deal of expertise in the kinds of problem that affect students. They are particularly good at helping anyone who is suffering from depression or who is simply overwhelmed by the pressures of university life. They know all about examination stress and the various ways of minimizing it. If you feel you need to see your GP urgently and the surgery is unable to offer you an early appointment, it is often worth seeing whether the Nurse or your Tutor can help arrange for them to see you quickly.

3.4.1 The University Counselling Service

The University Counselling Service is staffed by full-time and part-time professional counsellors and is available to all students who have a personal or emotional problem they wish to discuss. The UCS website also gives a lot of useful advice on self-help. It also explains how to make appointments and the process for being accessing individual counselling.

3.4.2 Mental Health: The Dawson Fund

Thanks to the generous benefaction by Peter and Christina Dawson, the College has some funding available to be used to provide support for students facing serious mental health problems. The funds will usually be deployed when we require a student needs to be seen in an emergency; when waiting lists at the UCS exceed the time in which a student’s Tutor and the Senior Tutor feel it is appropriate for a student to wait; or after a student has engaged with the UCS and/or their GP and where more specialised support is needed; and especially in emergency situations where any delay may be a serious problem. It is also anticipated that it may be used in cases where the Counselling Service provision is insufficient or unavailable to meet the needs of a student’s particular circumstances. The College’s approach reflects a view that it allows properly targeted specialist support to be accessed as necessary. In many cases, support from the Dawson Fund should be accessed alongside an application to Crane's Charity. 

The Senior Tutor will consider making referrals supported by the Dawson Fund upon receipt of a case made by the student’s Tutor, the Chaplain or the College Nurse and will make referrals as appropriate after consultation the Tutor and those making the case and where a need is agreed. In certain circumstances, those supporting a referral and making a case to the Senior Tutor for consideration may maintain the student’s anonymity if that is appropriate.

The JCR and MCR Welfare Officers can play a crucial role in identifying students who may require additional support; alerting a Tutor or the Senior Tutor; encouraging students to talk with their Tutor (or with another Tutor); and in some cases helping to initiate such contact. They should not, however, present a case directly to the Senior Tutor.

Referrals under this scheme shall not be means tested. Tutors have been asked as far as possible avoid recommending referrals prior to initial engagement with the UCS, which should be the first option considered.

As funds are limited, costs must be kept under control and recommendations will require careful justification. Up to six sessions will be funded in the first instance. After that, the Senior Tutor and the person who recommended action will review the case of any student supported by the Dawson Fund. Some further sessions may be approved at that point. No student will be eligible automatically for further sessions beyond the end of the academic year in which they were first referred. At that point a case must be made to the Senior Tutor by the Tutor (or other recommender) to justify further engagement. The possible outcomes of this review may be continuation at the previous level, continuation at a reduced level or for a limited number of sessions, the provision of some out of Term support, referral to the NHS or the UCS/DRC, or referral of the student’s case to the Fitness to Study Procedure. The latter would be appropriate in some cases where there were ongoing and serious issues facing a student who continued to need an intensive level of support into a second academic year.

3.4.3 NHS 111 Option 2

Cambridge and Peterborough NHS services provide a mental health support line via NHS111. Call 111 and when prompted, select option 2. 

3.4.4 The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service

As members of the University, all students are entitled to use the Student Advice Service provided by the University Student Union. 

3.4.5 Nightline

Nightline is a student Samaritan-type organization. It operates a telephone service from 7.00 pm to 7.00 am every night of Full Term. They can be contacted by phone, email or through web and social media links.  

3.4.6 The Samaritans

Sympathetic and helpful people are available twenty-four hours a day at the Samaritans Office in Cambridge to help those in despair or tempted to commit suicide. The office is open to callers at 4 Emmanuel Road, from 10.30 am to 10.00 pm every day including weekends. Help may be obtained by telephone (116 123 free from any phone) at any time, day or night.