A student who waited over three months for a reply from campus mental health advice service has spoken about her ‘frustration’ at the experience.
21-year-old Jemima Pegden transferred to De Montfort University in Leicester for the second year of a Fashion Buying and Marketing degree.
Jemima - who had transferred partly due to frustrations over mental health services at previous institutions - even contacted De Montfort’s mental health team about her anxiety prior to her arrival.
However, it wasn’t until the start of her second term that she finally had word back. On January 3rd, she tweeted a screenshot of the response she received from the university, directly below the email she sent on September 18th.
Speaking to Hazel Shearing at BuzzFeed News, Jemima said her anxiety had prevented her from attending classes while she awaited a response.
She said: “You kind of feel overlooked, you feel like you’re being ignored. The main thing with anxiety is that you feel like it’s such a massive deal for you, and it’s so intense and so horrible because it completely changes how you live your life.
“You get quite irritated. ... You are quite frustrated with the university and you don’t want to harass them, because you don’t want to be that person [asking them] all the time. I don’t think it’s their fault, I don’t think they really are sat there saying ‘just get over it’. But it does feel like that.”
She continued: “I think the only reason I got a reply is because I emailed my personal tutor saying, ‘I’m really struggling, I’m really finding it very difficult to come in or even check my university emails because I’m so anxious about it’.”
A spokesperson for De Montfort Universittold BuzzFeed News it’s ‘exceptionally rare' for students to have problems with their services and that the average maximum wait time for appointments is two weeks.
“We are very sorry to hear that one of our students has experienced a delay in receiving our services,” they said.
“We take the mental health of our students extremely seriously. We go to strenuous efforts to provide a timely and good quality service and we can confidently say the feedback we receive from students is excellent.”
Jemima has since attended mental health appointments and says accessing counselling at the university itself was important to her as she believes her anxiety relates specifically to her life on campus.
“University is an environment that I particularly - and I know a lot of other people - find really detrimental to their mental health for some reason.
"You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it really does have a big effect on how people feel in so many ways, and it seems to be negative mainly,” she said.
Eva Crossan-Jory, vice president of the National Union of Students (NUS) responsible for welfare, says she believes mental health services are still ‘wholly inadequate’ across many institutions.
She told BuzzFeed News: “Universities say there has been a growth in demand for student mental health services over the last decade - which is true, in part, because the reality of studying in the UK has changed so much.
“With fees so high, and the job market so competitive, students feel they have to continually push themselves perhaps more so than before. This means that many more are chronically sleep deprived and overworked - there is also an increase in reports of loneliness, isolation, depression and anxiety.”
Jemima says she didn't suffer from anxiety before becoming a student, and feels that universities should allocate more resources to students who are struggling in the environment, especially given the cost of tuition fees.
“I think if you’re putting people actively in a situation where their mental health is getting worse, you need to either change what you’re doing that’s doing that, or put the money in when people need the help,” she said.
All images used with kind permission of Jemima Pegden.