Sharon's story: Your mental health matters
My name is Sharon, I'm a master's student and one of the Student Content Shapers. Originally from Ghana, West Africa, I moved to the United Kingdom in October 2022. Being an international student has been a dream come true for me, but it’s not always easy to live out a dream. As the University celebrates University Mental Health Day
, there’s no better time to share my experience and introduce you to some of the mental health and wellbeing services on campus that I’ve used, and that you can as well.
Moving to the UK
When I moved to the UK from my home country, I had many expectations about how my life would be in terms of friendships, academia and even finances. When these things didn’t happen as soon as I imagined they would, I started to feel like a failure. As though I didn’t belong. There were numerous occasions when I felt alone and calling my family at home didn’t seem to be sufficient. As weeks progressed into months, and while I attempted to make friends here, the distance between me and my friends back home grew more apparent. Studying while adjusting to a new culture and system in a foreign country was also very challenging.
Also, as a postgraduate student, I realised I didn't have the luxury of time - everything had to be done at the same time, which can quickly become overwhelming. My mental health began to deteriorate, affecting my academic and social life. That’s when I decided to seek help from the University's mental health services.
Support services available for all students
I signed up for the University's Mental Health and Wellbeing Support Service, and a counsellor was assigned to me. I had five back-to-back counselling sessions, where I could express my thoughts and receive professional advice and ideas for the future. I also contacted my school's Wellbeing Officer and requested an extension for my assignment deadlines so that I could deliver better when I was in a position to do so. I've also recently begun attending Pause@UOB drop-in sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, 11am-5pm at The Lodge by the North Gate whenever I feel overwhelmed during the day. There is always someone available to talk to me, and if I don't want to talk, there are many crafts and artistic activities available to help me relax and feel better.
It's okay if you find yourself in any of the situations I've mentioned or can relate to this blog. And, just so you know, you don’t need to shoulder the load alone. There are lots of services available at UoB, as well as people who are specially trained and willing to assist you in navigating Uni while your mental health needs are met.
Apart from the resources I’ve stated above, you can also get help from UBHeard, a 24/7 free and confidential listening and support service. By logging into the UBHeard portal, you can contact them by phone, text, or live chat. I also recommend registering with a GP in the area and making use of the local mental health services available.
My advice as an international student
University can be a hard time for us all, but I think particularly for us international students. Living away from home and adjusting to life in a foreign place can be challenging, intimidating, and terribly lonely. You don't need to supress or bear the weight of these emotions alone; they are all very valid. To ensure excellent mental health during your academic journey, you should make use of any of these university-based mental health and wellbeing services. Your mental health matters and there's never been a better moment to give them a shot. I challenge you.