Talking to Your University

If something happens in your life that impacts on your wellbeing or your ability to study and research, your university will be able to help you. However, they can only help if they know about what has happened.

Generally students don’t tell their university about things that have happened for a number of reasons.

1. They believe that what has happened is so big that no one could possibly do anything to help. Or that it is too small for anyone to care about or that seeking help would be a waste of people’s time and resource. 

However big and significant the event is there will still be things people in your university can do to help. They might not be able to fix the problem but they can take pressure off in other ways, provide you with support to adjust to what has happened and reassure you about the possible consequences. 

If what has happened isn’t as significant, it is still important if you feel it is having a negative effect on your wellbeing or your research. 

2. They are worried that it will look like they aren’t coping and that people will assume they aren’t up to being a PGR student as a result. 

Just because you are a PGR student, it doesn’t mean you aren’t human. We all experience ups and downs in life and we all need the support of others. Being able to access support appropriately is a skill that successful people do well. Being able to say ‘this has happened, it’s having this impact and I need support to get to here,’ is a sign of strength, self-awareness and professionalism.

3. They think that services such as counselling are only for undergraduates and not for them. 

You are still a student – you are as entitled to university support as any other student. Staff in these services only exist to help students (including you) and want to support you.

4. They think that they ‘should’ be able to cope. 

No one can cope all of the time without the support of others. Human beings are not solitary animals. As a herd animal, it is in our nature to provide solace, comfort and support to each other. ‘Should’ is a word that anxiety and low mood use to beat us up and make us avoid doing things that would help. Ignore them and access the support that’s available.

There are usually a range of options open to you – your supervisor may be your first port of all if you have a good relationship with them. Or your university may have a counselling service, a wellbeing team, a Chaplaincy, a Student Union advice centre, peer support or a whole range of other options. 

Whatever has happened, tell your university so that they can work with you to maintain your wellbeing and then your work.