My experiences with mental health and universities

Can I be honest with you all? Just the idea of higher education makes me extremely anxious, there’s no other way to put it. I’m perpetually stressed about exams and other things I don’t understand, just the idea of writing an essay is often petrifying to me.

Going to university can be a daunting experience for anyone, there’s new places, people and things to learn about, it’s grand and terrifying all at the same time. While for some people this might seem like an exciting adventure, for me, it seemed like a nightmare.

I have something called ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder,’ GAD for short. It’s a mental illness that can come in many different forms, but for me, it means I can’t help panicking about everything and anything, and sometimes it can be utterly debilitating.

From being stuck in a crowd of loud students to googling symptoms of a cold and then having a panic attack because I’ve apparently only got two days to live. You name it, I’ve probably had a panic attack about it.

I felt like going to university wasn’t an option for people like me. People like me who have panic attacks in exams or stop breathing during presentations. I felt like higher education wasn’t able to support my accessibility requirements, and because of this, I held myself back by assuming university just wasn’t for me.

Why we need to talk about accessibility in universities

I didn’t know that there were things in place to make higher education more accessible. I didn’t know there were accessibility programs, people working to make higher education more inclusive, or even just people to help me understand the services provided.

I didn’t know what services were available because to me, there’s a sense of narrowmindedness when we speak about accessibility and the many different things it can look like. It seems that we have a very partial idea of what accessibility looks like, and I often feel like the lack of conversation can hold people back.

Accessibility can come in many forms, it can mean requiring accurate captions for lectures, but it can also mean requiring extensions for assessments to maintain a clear and healthy mind. However, without having a conversation about what accessibility looks like, it makes it hard for us to continue to work towards a society that is accessible for everyone.

Where I am now…

I’m now going into my third year of an undergraduate degree at UTS, with a goal of doing my masters once I’ve finished. Without accessibility programs in higher education, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

UTS provides an incredible number of services and has been able to start an amazing dialogue about accessibility. I’ve seen how beneficial these services are, and I can’t wait to see how we can continue and expand them.

Over the next few months as the new accessible.futures intern, I hope I’m able to engage in these conversations about accessibility and continue to work towards making university accessible for everyone.

  • Thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope your post goes widely so we can support more people. Or if you have ideas on how to improve getting the word out. Please suggest them.

  • Venetia it’s wonderful to have you on board and I’m looking forward to more accessible.futures posts! Thank you for your sharing your experiences – I know your story will resonate with so many people (including me!).

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