GUEST BLOG: Raising awareness about mental health

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My name is Akeel Shah and I am a first year undergraduate student studying English Literature. With the first semester behind me, I am looking forward to the upcoming semester with optimism and I feel that I’m in a much more buoyant mood.

This blog centres around how I have been coping at Brookes with anxiety and, more importantly, how the support at Brookes has helped me deal with the various mental health issues that I have been suffering from.

The reason why I chose to discuss the topic of mental health is to make everyone aware of the challenges most of us students face and try to remove the stigma that surrounds the subject. I understand that these issues can be really sensitive and it can be extremely difficult to open up to staff for support, however, the aim of this blog is to recognise this and to convey a sense of togetherness with staff and students alike. I hope that this is beneficial for fellow students and also to students wishing to study at Brookes, as this is essentially a first-hand experience of the compassionate support available at Brookes.

Before I arrived at Brookes, I was very anxious and perhaps it wasn’t helped by the fact that I was a very shy individual. However, I felt that I would be able to manage my anxiety effectively with the support at Brookes. I noticed when I arrived there was plethora of support such as the Wellbeing Team who are situated in the Buckley Building. Having opened up to my disability adviser regarding my own issues, she assigned me to a mentor/counselor and this would do a lot in helping me cope with stress, and managing work deadlines. Whilst I still tend to experience the occasional panic attack, the fact that I have a mentor who is willing to listen, someone who really cares about your wellbeing and does not hold a judgmental view, goes to show how much I have benefited from the support on offer at Brookes.

It has not been the easiest and nor did I expect to develop feelings of resignation and despair during my first semester here. Talking really helps, trust me. Being able to just talk and to let all the pain and emotions come out of you really does do a whole world of good for you; it’s a weight off your shoulders. You needn’t worry about embarrassment or whether you feel nervous, confidentiality is an important aspect which is strictly respected at Brookes. The Wellbeing Team are conscious of your worries and will only discuss your personal needs with others in the case of an extreme situation.

Staff at Brookes have done so much for me! I’d love to single out every single person but most notably my academic adviser and student support coordinator have really made me feel comfortable and have provided a relatively considerate and attentive approach to my own feelings of anxiety. Even my module/seminar leaders have been really encouraging, and can understand that at times I can be really distressed and overwhelmed.

I’m grateful for the support that I have received in my short, but hopefully successful time at Brookes. I’m determined not to let my anxiety overshadow my time here and, with the support offered by staff behind me, I feel able and assured that I’ll come out of Brookes in the right frame of mind and confident enough to stand up on my own two feet without being overly dependent on anyone.

I hope this blog has given you an insight into an individual's experience of anxiety, and I hope you can relate to this and that perhaps it offers some proof that the stigma surrounding mental health can really be challenged through talking and communicating here at Brookes. Trust me, you’ll be taken aback by the support!

Thank you,