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Student Services Doesn’t Always Know How to Deal with Bipolar Disorder

Anonymous shares their experience with the University’s mental health treatment.

Anonymous submissions do not necessarily reflect the views of The Stand, but of an individual. 

Ever since I have been back in St Andrews from my leave of absence I have had problems with how Student Services reacts to my bipolar episodes or supposed bipolar episodes. Their treatment of me has left me feeling angry, stripped of my freedom and of my human rights to not be forced into things I don’t want to do. They have made me feel less like a person and more like a child incapable of making decisions.

Firstly, I told them I was manic. They promptly decided to call up the GP to book an appointment when I didn’t want this to happen – even though the person I had a Student Services appointment with did not think I was manic. Thus, as she did not think I was manic, I feel it was not justified for her to call up the GP on my behalf whilst I was in the room.

When I was suicidal I told Student Services, not my parents. I was told off for telling other students how I had been feeling and told that other students had been worried about me. At the time I had not been thinking rationally and did not know what to do! I find it hard not to tell people how I am feeling. Being severely depressed is a lonely time, and you need people around you. I understand that it can worry other students and I should have acted differently by not getting students to hide my pills or telling them I was worried about the fact I had lots of medication, but it is hard not to tell at least a couple of people that you are suicidal without giving any specific details.

I was given absolutely no choice but to go to an appointment with Student Services, where they gave me the lecture about talking to other students – despite the fact that I had sent three emails trying to cancel this appointment, much to no avail. At the appointment not only did they lecture me about talking too much, but they told me that they were very worried about me. Even though I had been stable in mood for three days and knew that this normally means I am out of an episode, they told me I had to go to the doctor to get my medication quantity reduced or they would call the Principal.

At this point I felt that I was in trouble for having been severely mentally ill. Even though changing my medication from a two monthly prescription to a monthly prescription means more hassle for me as I have to go to the pharmacy more, I felt that I cared a lot more about my degree and remaining a student in St Andrews than my personal liberties at this time.

When I went to the GP the following day I darkly joked about how I had no choice but to do this or I would be in trouble with the University. I left my appointment furious, disillusioned and completely stripped of my freedom and autonomy. I have been through many things, but I have never felt worse than I did that day.

Another issue I have is the attitude of the University that whenever someone’s mental health is poor they should be sent home. Recent I have been fluctuating from manic to depressed a lot but with no suicidal thoughts; and yet Student Services still thought the solution might be to go home. Of course, going home is both expensive and time consuming for me and would only make me more stressed about my impending deadlines – not to mention the fact that it seems Student Services doesn’t accept that with bipolar disorder I will always get highs and lows. So how am I expected to go home every time I’m experiencing a mood swing?

In all, I feel that I have not always been treated as a person by Student Services and I have been denied some of my human rights when they have forced me against my will to do things with the threat that I will be in trouble if I don’t. I really think they need to learn how to deal with bipolar disorder in a more appropriate and sympathetic way, that they should learn it is not something to be “cured”, and to stop treating every episode like a crisis. Bipolar disorder is here to stay for me, unfortunately, and people have to accept that.

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