Managing the Journey - Tip #4 Don't Ignore Problems and Use the Help that is Available

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Having looked at some of the general steps that you can take to manage your mental wellbeing as a research student and at the importance of using your personal and professional support networks, this section of the guide will look at some of the help that is available if you experience mental wellbeing difficulties.

Here you will find links to online self-help resources and advice on accessing University and external mental wellbeing support services.

If you need to speak with someone right now, see the mental wellbeing links and contacts; if you are having thoughts of self-harming or are feeling suicidal, contact someone immediately - such as your doctor, a friend, a relative, or someone else you can trust.

Important Notes

Before going on to look at the different types of support that is available, it is important to emphasise the following points:

Problems are Not Uncommon

Although severe mental wellbeing difficulties are not common, many research students experience periods when their mental wellbeing is not as strong as usual. The majority of research students will go on to successfully complete their research degree.

Use the Help Available

If you are experiencing mental wellbeing difficulties - such as stress, depression, or anxiety - there are people and resources that can help; use the help that is available and ask if you are not sure what to do.

There is No Judgement

Experiencing mental wellbeing difficulties is not a sign of weakness, nor is seeking help a sign of failure - no one will judge you if you experience problems and need help dealing with them. If you think you have a problem, tell someone.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

The resources listed here are mainly self-help materials, but there are times when professional advice is needed - speak with your doctor if you have been feeling depressed for more than a few weeks or if anxiety or stress is affecting your daily life. For advice on accessing health services in Leicester, please see the mental wellbeing links and contacts.

Look Out for Friends

If you have concerns about the mental wellbeing of someone you are close to, do encourage them to seek help - simply letting them know you care about them can make a big difference; raising such concerns is not easy, but the charity Depression Alliance have some guidance on speaking with someone you are concerned about and further advice is available in the Student Counselling Service's guide Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Worried About a Friend?

Online Mental Wellbeing Self-Help Resources

Making the Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing part of your regular routines will improve your long-term mental wellbeing and help you deal with the personal and professional challenges associated with undertaking a research degree.

However, there will still be times when your mental wellbeing is not a strong as usual. When that happens, it is important to recognise the impact this is having. If you are experiencing mental wellbeing difficulties there are a number of self-help resources available to help you improve your mental wellbeing.

NHS Online Mental Wellbeing Guides

The NHS Moodzone has a number of short online guides which provide practical tips and how-to guides to improve your mental wellbeing:

Low Mood and Depression
Stress
Fear and Phobias
Anger Management

NHS Mental Wellbeing Podcasts

The NHS Moodzone has eight audio guides with advice on how to approach common problems with mental wellbeing:

Mental Health Foundation Podcasts

The Mental Health Foundation is a UK charity that works for an end to mental ill health and the inequalities that face people experiencing mental distress. They have a series of free audio guides to help you relax and improve your sense of wellbeing:

Student Counselling Service Online Guides

The University's Student Counselling Service have produced a number of short self-help guides on themes relating to mental wellbeing:

Other External Online Mental Wellbeing Resources

The NHS Moodzone provides a complete list of online mental health services currently approved for use by the NHS.

Research students wanting to understand and improve their mental wellbeing may also want to consider these external online resources:

MoodGYM

MoodGYM was designed and developed by staff at the National Institute for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. It is an interactive online resource designed to prevent depression and comprises five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, a downloadable relaxation audio, a workbook, and a feedback assessment.

https://moodgym.anu.edu.au

Living Life to the Full

Living Life to the Full is an online course that uses a self-help format and also the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) model which has a proven effectiveness in helping people develop life skills that help them tackle feelings of low mood, stress, and distress. The course is supported by a series of CBT self-help workbooks that can be used between the e-learning sessions and which encourage the reader to put what they are learning into practice.

www.llttf.com

Students Against Depression

Students Against Depression offers information and resources validated by health professionals alongside tips and advice from students who have experienced it all themselves.

http://studentsagainstdepression.org

Steps for Stress

Stress does not just make you feel bad, it can be bad for your health too. Steps for Stress is an online resource developed by NHS Scotland. It offers practical advice on ways for you to start dealing with stress.

www.stepsforstress.org

Headspace

Headspace is your very own personal trainer, here to help you train your mind. There are online resources, many of them free, to help you explore meditation and mindfulness and their benefits for your mental wellbeing.

www.headspace.com

University Mental Wellbeing Support Services

The Student Support Service provides a fully integrated support service for University of Leicester students and postgraduates.

Student Welfare Centre

The Student Welfare Centre offers wide ranging practical support, advice, and information for students and postgraduates:

  • financial advice
  • immigration advice
  • housing advice
  • legal advice

To learn more, visit the Student Welfare Centre Website.

Student Psychological and Healthy Living Service

The Student Psychological and Healthy Living Service offers a range of expertise and support for both the physical and psychological aspects of health and wellbeing in the context of your academic journey.

Student Counselling Support

Time-limited, free and confidential counselling on a one-to-one or group basis addressing both academic-related and personal issues:

Student Mental Wellbeing Support

Practical and emotional one-to-one and group support for students and postgraduates managing mental health issues at the University:

Student Healthy Living Service

The Student Healthy Living Service strives to help students and postgraduates improve their health and wellbeing. The Student Healthy Living Service also works closely with local NHS services and provides advice on access to health care facilities:

AccessAbility Centre

The AccessAbility Centre offers a range of services to all students and postgraduates who have specific learning difficulties, disabilities, or long-term conditions.

To learn more, visit the AccessAbility Centre Website.

Please note that the Student Support Service operates a Monday to Friday appointment-based service - these services are not designed to provide help in an emergency.

External Mental Wellbeing Support Services

There are a number of external support and advocacy groups that research students may wish to contact for advice on specific subjects relating to mental wellbeing or should they wish to speak to someone outside of the University.

For details of some of these external support services, please see the mental wellbeing links and contacts.

Research students who are experiencing more severe mental wellbeing problems or mental wellbeing problems that continue over more than a few weeks are encouraged to consult a medical practitioner as soon as possible.

All new research students are strongly encouraged to register with a local doctor; research students living near to the University may wish to register with the Victoria Park Health Centre which is located adjacent to the main campus. For more advice on accessing health care services, consult the University Healthy Living Service's leaflet Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Your Health - How to Get Help and Advice.

In the event of an emergency you should go to the Accident and Emergency Department at the Leicester Royal Infirmary or your local hospital. An ambulance should only be requested for cases which are life threatening - if an ambulance is required call 999.

Taking a Break from Your Degree or Withdrawal

Research students may request to temporarily halt their degree (suspension) or permanently end their registration (withdrawal).

Requests for Suspension of Programme

If there are specific reasons why you need to take a temporary break from your research degree, you can request a short suspension of your programme if:

  • the suspension period will be at least three months long – requests for suspensions of less than three months will not be considered
  • the suspension period will be no longer than twelve months – requests for a suspension of more than twelve months (or for separate suspensions that would cumulatively total more than twelve months over the length of your degree) will be approved only in exceptional circumstances

A suspension of programme can be helpful if you need time and space to deal with any personal or medical issues that may be affecting your mental wellbeing. No tuition fees are payable for an agreed period of suspension; however, for the duration of the suspension research students are not entitled to any support from their supervisory team or Department.

To request a suspension of your programme, please visit the Research Student Zone.

Withdrawing from Your Research Degree

If you are considering withdrawing from your degree – that is, permanently ending your registration – we would encourage you to first seek advice from your supervisory team. You may also want to speak with the Student Welfare Centre or The Education Unit.

If you decide that you do need to withdraw from your degree, you need to notify the Doctoral College Office in writing - failure to do so may mean that you continue to incur fees.

To withdraw from your research degree programme, please visit the Research Student Zone.

Final Words

We hope that your research degree experience will be a positive and successful one and that this guide will help you manage the challenges that come from working at this level.

Research students are welcome to contact us with any suggestions as to how this guide might be improved - please email your comments to The Doctoral College.

Managing the Journey - Mental Wellbeing for PhD/MPhil Students

The Doctoral College's Top Four Tips for Mental Wellbeing in Your Research Degree:

  1. Understand what mental wellbeing is and why it matters
  2. Manage your mental wellbeing as a research student
  3. Develop and use personal and professional support networks
  4. Don't ignore problems and use the help that is available

Mental Wellbeing Links and Contacts

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