One student was mistakenly expelled and others say they have been discriminated against and left “feeling hopeless” as a result of the University’s policies for handling students with mental illness.

Criticism has also been levelled at the University’s practices regarding essay extensions and the bureaucracy of the student support system, with some saying it adds to the stress of dealing with mental illness. Others have complained about the quality of the help they received.

James Smith*, who has now been diagnosed as bipolar but has also suffered from various sleep disorders for a number of years, said he felt that he was treated differently to students with a visible illness after he was expelled while he was seeking psychiatric treatment for his condition.

Before the start of this academic year, Mr Smith requested a leave of absence and sent a letter to the pro-dean, in which he stated that he would be starting psychiatric treatment. However, his leave of absence was not approved because he did not state how long he intended it to be. The University sent him several emails and letters, but his condition meant he was unable to read or reply to their requests. The University did not contact his emergency contacts. He was later expelled from the University because he had not registered or confirmed how long he would like to remain on leave.

Mr Smith expressed his frustration: “I feel that if a student disappears, [the University] needs to contact somebody**, and if it’s a serious situation like termination of studies and they are not responding through the normal channels, just letting the system automatically continue on is not something that other universities would do. They have my emergency contact details. All they had to do was address a letter to my mother.”

In his appeal to the University, he said: “I should also like to briefly express my displeasure with the fact that this fiasco was allowed to take place as it did. Both I and my family strongly feel that my failure to arrive in halls, my failure to register, and my failure to respond to email or mail should have merited some concern. Since it was clear that I was missing, it would have been appropriate to contact my family so as to ensure my safety, which would have prevented this mess from happening in the first place.

“It is disturbing to think that a student who fails to arrive on time, whether by misfortune or illness, would not be considered missing, and that no effort would be made to contact that student’s family. And it is disturbing to think that, after having informed the University of a medical and psychiatric condition, this chain of events still took place, simply because I did not state the exact amount of leave I would require – something which was unknown at that time.”

Although Mr Smith was able to appeal and eventually returned to the University, the situation caused considerable extra stress for a student who was already having problems. He said: “I was able to appeal this but it wasn’t easy. When it finally came to light that this had happened, my condition worsened.”

No standardised policy

Mr Smith also felt that he had been discriminated against during his time studying here, owing to the lack of a standardised University policy on how staff should deal with students with mental illness.

At one point before his leave of absence, his condition worsened and he was unable to sleep properly for a number of weeks. Around this time he was required to submit a number of pieces of coursework, and because of his situation he asked for an extension. One professor offered a short two-day extension but Mr Smith felt this was not enough time and asked for more to complete the essay because he was still having problems. However, this extension was refused and he was unable to complete the coursework, causing him to fail the module.

He said: “Every day I went to the library and I tried to read, and I could read the same sentence over and over and over again and I wouldn’t remember what was at the beginning by the time I got to the end. There was no way in that week that I could do the work that needed to be done. I needed an extra week. One professor gave it to me and I turned that essay in. After fighting with the other professor, the most he would give me was three days.

“Honestly, it made my condition worse because it was crushing and the problem we have at this point is that students in that situation can’t represent themselves very well. I tried. I went to Student Services. I went to the pro dean and what they told me was that basically that the departments can decide what it means to accommodate special needs.”

Although Student Services will help students with mental illnesses to receive support and register as disabled, this can be interpreted in different ways by different professors. The inconsistency can make students who are having problems more anxious about asking for help. Mr Smith explained that “just the knowledge that they’ll work with you stops the cycle”.

Mr Smith also said that he felt he had been treated differently, arguing: “If a student is in the hospital for seven days and can’t do the reading or do the work, then they definitely would give them seven days to do the work.”

He continued: “It seems to me that the problems that people have here generally come down to the system.

“Sometimes you’ll get a professor, who doesn’t for whatever reason, doesn’t want to, in my opinion, follow the rules or make any sort of concession. What really angered me was that I had gone to all the lectures and tutorials and I had started working on the essay. I was interested and I wanted to do the essay.”

Dr Christine Lusk, the director of Student Services, said that the University does not have a standardised policy because of the variation in course structure across departments: “It’s the same with all UK universities; things aren’t standardised in the University. What you get in art history, for example, won’t be the same as everywhere else because it depends on the way that the course is weighted and it depends on how you have performed in that course.

“If you feel you you’re being treated unfairly by somebody and you’re not getting the allowances and you’ve got some medical condition or special circumstances, then the University pays for somebody in Student Services to listen to these people and appeal on their behalf.

“If you’re asking for a day’s extension on an essay that is 10 per cent of your mark, that’s very different to asking for a two week extension on an exam that is 50 per cent of your mark, so it can’t be standardised, but what we have got is advocates that work with Student Services.”

But Mr Smith said: “When I had difficulty, I was treated as though I was a bad student and I didn’t study, and the stupid thing was the reason I wasn’t failing my degree was because I was studying so hard and working so hard. The assumption is that if somebody has problems it’s their own fault and it’s a very dangerous assumption to make.”

Student Services problems

Students who are worried about their mental health can contact Student Services, where they will be assessed by a support advisor who will work with them to determine the next step. If they are suffering from serious mental illness, they will be referred for counselling.

Dr Lusk expressed pride in the University’s support structure. She called the service offered “bespoke” and said it is tailored to the needs of each student. She said: “We do everything in our power to put in place alternative formats… We’ve got a host of different things we put in place for people to help them help themselves and we help them help themselves.”

This includes a cognitive behavioural therapy councillor and online courses for students. But despite Dr Lusk’s reassurances, Mr Smith had concerns about the quality of care that Student Services provides. After he contacted them asking for help with his essay extension, he found them slow to reply and on one occasion they did not reply to his email at all.

Other students have echoed his worries. Sam Jones*, another student who has used the service, criticised the help on offer: “Personally, I have had varied experiences with Student Services. After being diagnosed with mental health issues I was first told to get in touch with them. I began counselling and found comfort confiding in one particular counsellor.

“However, my counsellor left, and for too long a time Student Services made no effort to set me up with another counsellor. I then had to go back through the whole system from the beginning to receive more help. My condition had worsened by this point.”

Mr Jones said he felt that not enough is done to follow up on students who are struggling. He stopped attending counselling at the beginning of this academic year but has not been contacted by Student Services.

He explained: “I went to my first meeting with this new counsellor optimistic but found their attitude patronising and overall was left with the impression that they were unprofessional and unqualified. I never returned to my second cognitive behavioural therapy session and this was never followed up.

“I can recall Student Services were almost smug about the fact that the NHS waiting list is significantly longer, which I believe is great, but I think it’s a shame that they pride themselves on a service which left this student more hopeless than I was to begin with.”

Dr Lusk explained that Student Services try to be proactive in dealing with students who are having problems. Members of staff check self-certificates of absence and contact students who may be suffering from long term problems but who have not looked for help. She also said that they are assisted by students who ask for help for their friends, and they are also now encouraging worried parents to speak to Student Services so they can offer help to the child.

She admitted that some students do slip through the net, although she says this is less likely at St Andrews than at other universities because of the measures in place here. Student Services deals with a large number of students each day and man will experience mental health problems at some point during their time in St Andrews. Dr Lusk said there has been a “tidal wave” of people using the service recently, with a 38 percent increase in students asking for help during the last semester.

Asked whether this may be a result of the loss of Reading Week, she said she was unsure but stressed that universities across the UK have seen similar increases. To help deal with the increase the University has agreed to increase funding for Student Services, which will soon be moving to a new office at Eden Court.

Although St Andrews has a good record when it comes to waiting times for counselling – students can expect to see a support advisor within three days and a counsellor within a week and a half – some students feel that this -personalised experience that does not provide enough help.

Scott Simpson*, who has used Student Services, said: “In my experience, the Student Services at the University fail to provide students with suitable personalised care, putting a lot of people off going back.

“I also feel that there is a lack of genuine concern for students’ mental wellbeing, as you always leave feeling like a number on the list rather than a person.”

The University has responded to this article here.

*All student names have been changed to protect the identity of those concerned.

** The University’s missing student policy is here.

  • Updated 7 March with several clarifications

80 COMMENTS

  1. I too have found Student Services to be a negative experience. I have depression and I went to see a Support Advisor who was very nice, but I explained to her all my problems and I was assured I would receive counseling but nothing has ever been followed up…surely even a simple email to see how I am wouldn’t be asking too much?

    • This is pretty much my exact situation. It’s partly my fault; I have email them again myself. The problem is that many people struggling with depression find it difficult to communicate, it’s easier to just stay quiet. It would be nice if Student Services made more of an effort to communicate, I have the horrible feeling that they have forgotten about me.

      • I really sympathise with your situation – you’re exactly right that the nature of depression makes it all the harder to reach out for help – but nobody can expect Student Services to keep track of everybody who comes onto their radar if those people don’t take up some of the responsibility for maintaining contact. A huge part of the recovery process involved making a commitment to getting help – please believe me, I know this. If you’re struggling right now, I’d urge you to get back to Student Services and try hard to stay in contact.

        • If youre going to keep falling in the river, youre going to have to commit to learning to swim. No I wont pull you out, you need to learn your lesson. Whats that? Youre to exhausted to try right now? You think you have water in your lungs? Well thats just tough because youve really got to commit to this swimming thing.

        • I agree with most of what you say, but I think CCOV’s point about contact is valid. If you go to see a counsellor, the very least you should expect is a follow-up email. A simple one line email is all that is needed, and could even be automated. It’s great that you were able to show commitment to get help, but that isn’t always possible for everyone.

  2. Check your facts first before slating a fantastic service as one day you might be desperate for the help they give! It’s students like you that write this shite that give you all a bad name, concentrate on your studies and maybe you’ll eventually have a life you wee cunt!!

    • Wow, the irony of praising a student support service while simultaneously using abusive language towards a student. This piece was researched and includes the experiences of several students. Perhaps The Saint might have included some positive student experiences of student services but I think good on them for showing that these crucial services might need improving. As for the student above, she was merely writing about her own personal experience. I too have had a negative experience with student services, however I have friends who have found their counsellors helpful.

      • Tenuous use of the word ‘several’ there – try citing three references only on your next assessment item, and see how much credibility your research is attributed?

        • It’s a newspaper article of around 600 words, not a 3000 word essay. There is a difference. How many professional news articles of the same length have 20 references?

          • As I’m sure you’re aware, ‘do’ and ‘should’ are two distinctly differently things. The standard of research behind articles that appear in the mainstream media is worryingly thin in general, but that doesn’t give one licence to be lazy and irresponsible in failing to contextualise the issues they are presenting to fellow students at the University. If 3 or 4 quotes from a given population were included in a brief article, it should be representative of the population otherwise it is misleading.

        • However, I do agree that perhaps The Saint could have included some positive experiences of students with the ASC. That being said, they would still only be able to quote three or four students in total, you can’t compare a newspaper article to an academic essay.

  3. I have also experienced problems with Student Support- they wrote off my depression as “situational”, but I’m still struggling with it every day. My experience of the counsellors there in three words: Patronising, skeptical and demeaning. Also, there are no safeguards for the research students who do not have the classes to send in self-certificates for, nor for those writing their theses for doctoral programmes. I’d like that addressed please, Dr Lusk.

    • Jo Bloggs: the Student Services has begun to target mental health issues specifically in the postgrad community only fairly recently (the assumption in the past was that a lot of this responsibility lay with supervisors, advisers etc). There is now a full-time adviser in Student Services with a priority for postgrads – if you speak to the ASC you can ask to be put in contact.

    • ” they wrote off my depression as “situational”, but I’m still struggling with it every day. My experience of the counsellors there in three words: Patronising, skeptical and demeaning.”

      My experience exactly.

        • Me too! I felt so low and all the Support Adviser could say to me as “well what can we do?” All I wanted was help for my depression and I got asked 1 million questions! If I had known what to do I wouldn’t have gone to SS in the first place. We don’t expect too much, we know that the counselors aren’t psychiatrists but SS is our closest point of contact to help in the University so that’s who we expect to turn to for help.

          • i went to a counselling session and said, “i’ve just been diagnosed with depression and told to seek counselling with you. also, i’m enrolled in a class i’m not actually taking.”
            they were very good at sorting out the admin of my class schedule. but barely two sentences were said about my depression – the real reason i’d gone there.
            i know other people who have had a good time there, but for me the experience was negative.

      • i had very negative experiences here. wasn’t taken seriously by a patronizing counselor who appeared naive when confronted with situations/perspectives outside of her own experience. couldn’t muster the energy or devote time to complain and redress these issues since i had a ton of work to be dealing on top of depression etc. (which she claimed i didn’t have despite losing weight, sleep, and massive changes in personality, personal hygiene, behavior…)

        strange to look back on this time and think that i didn’t complain. i didnt really feel i had any recourse to independent adjudicators outside the university though and again was focused on cobbling through somehow in tact. the towns a pretty small place, and st andrews in it is a pretty totalising institution in it. happy the article drew some attention to the problems.

  4. As someone who has suffered with mental illness for almost my whole life, I can definitely say that the SS has been nothing but accommodating. I think the specific schools are more to blame than the SS, who will often do everything in their power to accommodate students — at least in my case.

    • I definitely agree on the Schools front, on top of other University units relevant to the student experience – not on SSS.

  5. First off, to the students mentioned in this article, I hope you are now receiving the support you require either from the university or elsewhere. I am confident that all the readers feel the same.

    To the Saint and the staff responsible for this article, shame on you. This has to be one of the most one-sided and bias articles I have ever read in your paper. Not once to you comment on the great work Student Services does for its student with respect to promotion, advocacy and support towards mental health at St Andrews. I only hope that at some point, if not all ready, you require their help and see how great they are. They have supported me and friends of mine on many occasions and I will continue to promote them to others in need. What you have done with this article is potentially scare students away from the service and therefore jeopardizes their wellbeing. Good job.

    Anyone who has suffered from poor mental health will know it is not something that can be fixed in a single visit or by flicking a switch; it is a battle that for some lasts a lifetime. They will also tell you that not every approach to help an individual will work, and on occasion this can appear as a failure, but it is not. It is also something that the individual has to do most of the work. Mental health professionals will guide you through the obstacles and teach you how to improve your mental health, but ultimately the responsibility is on the individual to want to get better, and it is almost always a tough fight.

    I think it’s safe to say Student Services has one of the hardest jobs at this university, and we should be applauding them rather than slandering them. I know we will never hear the full story, but I hope others at this institution speak up in support of this service.

    If you have received poor services from them, tell them. They need to know. Not by this form of media but face to face, on the phone or e-mail. It may be hard to do, but it is your responsibility.

    If anything, what this article has done is raise an issue that so many are scared to talk about. If this poorly written article is the catalyst for improved support for students with poor mental health, than let’s do it. I challenge the Saint to run a regular piece in your paper promoting mental health to our students and staff, and avoid this unproductive and slandering “shock media”

  6. As a former student of St Andrews, my experience with student support services has been nothing but positive. I suffer from social anxiety (and mild depression to go along with it) and SSS were a great help for the first three years of my undergraduate degree (starting from the fourth I no longer needed their support). I could see a counsellor once a week who helped me work through my mental health problems, SSS even referred me to a therapist who helped me deal with anxiety for upcoming tutorials and presentations – they even liaised with my academic school and helped negotiate arrangements so that my formal assessment wouldn’t be influenced if my anxiety affected performance on formally marked presentations. With the help of SSS I learned to not avoid presentations but do them. If it wasn’t for the support of SSS, I don’t think I would have gotten through the university as successfully as I did.

  7. “Student Services” has no professional help for students’ mental health. If you are here you are on your own. Glad this story came to light.

    • This just isn’t true. there are professional counselors, though no doctors. the job of the staff in student services is to help you within your studies, they can’t give medical treatment, though they can help you get access to it via the NHS etc

  8. It’s a nice to see I’m not alone. Since enrolling in St Andrews almost 4 years ago I have had nothing but problems with the University. I went to SS over and over and over, asking for help, asking for advice, asking for someone to give me some guidance in a situation that entirely overwhelmed me. I have suffered from depression and insomnia since I was 9 years old and the stress of school almost drove me to the breaking point. The only person, the ONE, SINGLE person, that helped me, was one of my professors. He suggested that I go in and demand to be tested for dyslexia. The results came back that yes, I am dyslexic, fairly badly. What was I given? Extra time and a computer for my exams. That was it. After having read on the website that dyslexic students can be assigned people to take notes for them in class or have notes pre-written at the start of class, I asked for this over and over and I was given a faulty recording device instead, meanwhile I watched as other students were handed their notes before class and given the help they needed. This is a just a small portion of the problems I’ve had with this school and it’s teaching methods etc. I’d just like to say that, yes maybe for some people, it works great. But for those of us who fall through the cracks and are ignored and told ‘Just try harder’ this is one of the worse schools I have ever seen.

    • Your story made me feel quite angry. There is a basic problem of balance. Students at St Andrews don’t pay an insignificant amount in fees. Those fees ultimately pay the staff, and yet my experience is that there is never an indication of this. Rather the impression given by most teaching staff is that students should be simply grateful to be there. And if you have a problem, you are either ignored or looked upon as an annoyance. Of course payment of fees shouldn’t guarantee a degree, but the university should look at students more as customers, and remember that they are meant to be providing a service. That a world class university fails to provide basic support for a dyslexic is shameful in my view.

      • “the university should look at students more as customers, and remember that they are meant to be providing a service” is a neat summary of everything that is wrong with the attitude of some students.

  9. And this is how they do it and the main reason my daughter is leaving university without a degree. She has severe dyslexia and suffered carbon monoxide poisoning during her first year at uni. She has never been able to test well, because of the dyslexia and few accommodations were made. When she failed a final by 1/10th of a point and the university wouldn’t budge, telling her she obviously hadn’t learned any of the course work, when she got honors grades on all her papers & I know she studied like mad for the final, that was the last straw. Shame on St. Andrews & same on systems like this everywhere who allow brilliant students who learn differently or struggle with other problems fall through the cracks. These are the problem solvers of our future, the ones who think outside the box, the ones we desperately need, tossed aside like garbage.

    • failing by 1/10th of a point means you have failed on component of the course but passed the rest, not that you missed out by 1/10th of a point

  10. Ye I’m a student and I’m currently studying mental health and to slate a services that’s tremendous in all aspects is ridiculous. Away and get Daddy to pay ur bills and carry on as a career student. Prick.

    • You’re studying mental health?! I pity anyone who ends up under your ‘care’ – you seem about as empathetic as a crocodile.

      I’ve had support from SSS and I found they were great and very understanding. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone’s experience is the same, and some people clearly haven’t found them as good. They are perfectly entitled to feel that way, and to express their opinion, without being subjected to abusive language from a person they’ve never met, and who has no idea what they’re going through.

      If you feel so personally affronted by any criticism (not even criticism of you!) of mental health provisions, then I suggest you find another career path, since no system is perfect and there is always room for improvement.

  11. Honestly I don’t see how it is the University’s fault that ‘Sam Jones’ was clearly unable to attend university and carry out his duties as a student. Asking for indefinite time off and not responding to repeated requests for clarification from the university does seem like sufficient justification for expulsion. This may be harsh but the university can’t simply hold a place for a student indefinitely (university spots are rival in consumption, for you economists) while he decides whether he wants to re-attend or not. I understand that mental illness can be crippling, but surely responding to a simple email cannot be too difficult. That seems more like gross negligence to me. If a student is unable to study, complete assignments, or respond to emails, it seems like he doesn’t belong at university–until he regains control over his life. Yet again, the Saint’s purported ‘scoop’ is a fake scandal inflated so as to cause controversy.

    • “that’s a nice tnetennba” – I don’t mean to sound harsh, but comments like yours show that there is still a long way to go in tackling mental illness. You saying “surely responding to a simple email cannot be too difficult” – well, yes, when you are in such a low mental state, simple, daily tasks that may seem menial to most people can sometimes seem impossible. It is honestly very difficult to understand what people like the students quoted in Laura’s article were going through unless you have been there. During a period where you feel so low, I promise you the last thing you want to do is contact people and check your emails. It is not “gross negligence”, it is the actions and mood of someone who is seriously ill and needs treatment. Just like someone who cannot get out of bed in the morning because of a physical impairment. Good on The Saint for trying to report on this issue.

    • ‘Sam Jones’ is not the person you appear to be referring to – ‘James Smith’ is. And ‘James Smith’ did not appear to ask for indefinite time off – it seemed he just was not sure when he would be returning and did not clarify this in his email. Obviously this put the university in a difficult situation so I cannot understand why at that point they did not contact one of his emergency contacts. People who suffer from mental illness which strongly affects mood swings can be very vulnerable at times and so I am surprised that the university did not contact members of his family in an effort to reach out to him through a different source, or at least make them aware of the situation. Mental illness can also affect your decision-making so ‘James Smith’ may not have been aware of how problematic the vagueness of his email was – it may have been extremely difficult for him to send that initial email to start with. You clearly do not understand the degree to which mental illness can be crippling if you think that ‘a simple email cannot be too difficult’. Mental illness affects different people to different degrees in different ways. I am someone recovering from severe depression, and there was a point in my life in which I could not respond to emails. It was horrible and it wasn’t something I chose. Yes, you might think that if someone can’t send emails they should not be at university – well, I took a leave of absence to recover and so did ‘James Smith’. Before I suffered from severe depression I had no idea how crippling the condition could be. Even when I had mild bouts of it I never realised that it could get so bad that even simple things like eating can become difficult. I hope you never have to experience mental illness yourself, and I hope you’ll be more sensitive in your comments regarding it in the future. One of the hardest things about dealing with mental illness is the stigma around it and having to constantly justify yourself to people – to explain to them why you’re not behaving the way that is considered appropriate.

    • I don’t take chagrin with most of your comment (which I can understand from a purely objective, economic point of view), but the sentence “I understand mental illness can be crippling, but surely responding to a simple e-mail cannot be too difficult” is, I think, harsh and informed by someone with no experience of serious mental illness. I used to think that way too, so I can forgive you making the throwaway remark and thinking nothing of it.

      But there were times in my final year where, in the midst of depression associated with finals and dissertation (etc), I laid in bed for three days and cried. I did nothing else, communicated with no one else. I did not eat, nor sleep. You’re underestimating just how crippling illnesses like depression can be, how suddenly it can hit you and make you feel like the loneliest person in the world, and how paralysing some of the meds required to remedy it can be.

      I agree that the University, the Union, and SS all need to come together to sort this out, and a key thing that would help most students is some form of internal communication (so students don’t feel like they’re being shoved pillar to post to get extensions, or to provide justifications for one absence, or that there is no point in communication with department or university because most of the time you’ll just be ignored). This problem is not new – it existed for the four years I attended (09-13), I’m sure existed before then, and unless some serious attention is given to it, it will persist.

  12. I suffer from severe clinical depression and have had very mixed experiences with Student Services. I did receive some good counseling from the second counselor I saw there, but the first counselor I saw never responded to my email about a follow-up appointment. When you’re severely depressed and feel desperate the last thing you need is to be ignored. There are also not enough counseling appointments available – I think you should at least be able to see someone on a weekly basis, although hopefully this will be solved by the additional funding. On one day no counselors at all were available because they were all at a training day and I think that’s ridiculous. I also had problems with getting extensions from some of the members of the departments, who could be outright patronising when you asked for one. I found some departments to be exceptionally understanding though.

  13. I think this article raises some serious issues, and I have had experience of the leave system for mental welfare issues myself, having had some time off due to mild depression.

    For those who automatically and unquestioningly leap to the defence of the university whenever it is criticised I would encourage you to take a step back. Of course SS generally does a wonderful job, is staffed by well-trained and committed people, but that is not to say that every student gets the service they should have, or just as importantly, that things could not be improved. It is not the function of The Saint to carry out balanced research. They have clearly raised serious issues, and judging by the comments, the experiences of the students quoted above are by no means exotic or fictitious accounts.

    The problem St Andrews has is that its internal communication structure is non-existent, and the extent to which it does exist is pretty much archaic and unfit for purpose, The Pro Dean system for granting leave and dealing with problems relating to mental welfare I think is the real one that needs to be reviewed. As a doctoral student I have experienced both sides of the system, and have both been a student with mental welfare issues and had students who had those issues as well. I always tried to be as flexible as possible with the students and would stretch any deadline or boundary to allow the student to complete the work. The real problem comes when students miss tutorials, as the academic alert system can be very unforgiving and almost totally inflexible. Once the student has missed four tutorials there is pretty much an assumption that student will fail the module unless they can demonstrate exceptional reasons. There are many examples throughout the university where students are routinely failed on a course for this reason, even where absence is supported by medical explanation. This is undeniable.

    There seems to be an assumption that once a student reaches a serious crisis point that they should just have a leave of absence, and in many cases this is actually the correct thing. However, my impression is that the university is rather poor at ensuring this is a course of last resort, and needs to do more to accommodate students with mental welfare problems. The fundamental problem here in this respect is the inflexibility and inconsistency with which academic staff approach the problems of missed course work deadlines, missed tutorial/lab attendance, final deadlines for the submission of all coursework, and the exam system. With increasingly short semesters now this makes it harder for students to catch up. I think much could be done to improve the overall system. The majority of staff at the university do a wonderful job and do everything they can to support the students, and do so with a very deep level of pastoral and pedagogical commitment. But I don’t doubt that many aspects of the process could be reviewed and improved, and I suppose the challenge is to find a way in which this can happen which allows all parties with an interest to communicate. This would be a good use of student reps time.

    I should also say to Debbie that anyone who comes on here and shouts obscenities at people for posting critical comments, whilst claiming to be a mental health student, should perhaps be reconsidering their career trajectory. This demonstrates a fundamental lack of listening skills, which I rather think is a pre-requisite for this kind of vocation.

  14. I’ve also taught in my time as a postgrad student. I agree that this article raises some important issues, but there are serious problems with the manner in which it does so. The main one to my mind is that it uses the (I’m sure legitimate) grievances of a small number of students to draw broad conclusions about Student Services as a “failing” department. In the worst case scenario this could discourage students from seeking help when they need it.

    With this in mind I have a few more points to make on your post:

    1) It’s true that The Saint has no obligation to carry out balanced research, but it must expect to be taken to task for this kind of skewed reporting, as some of the comments here seem to be doing.

    2) Bearing in mind that it has no obligation to provide mental health services, the university has to strike a difficult balance between supporting its students and maintaining academic rigour. Missing four tutorials (for instance) amounts to missing nearly 50% of a course – as a tutor or module co-ordinator, is it reasonable for any given student (and standards must apply universally if at all possible) not to attend such a large amount of tuition? As you point out, most staff want to do the best they can for their students, but where do they draw a line, and is there a better solution than the four-tutorials norm? (This is a genuine question)

    As a further point, there are a small number of students for whom university and all its accompanying pressures does no favours, and whose mental health is only likely to worsen by being here. People in this kind of situation are often in a desperately difficult position and ways out can be hard to see. Periods of leave can form part of a solution, but just as you say, it’s a very difficult process to manage. Whilst I’ve had no bad experiences with communication issues, I don’t doubt the potential for mistakes like this.

    Another, very difficult issue which hasn’t been brought up so far is the spurious use of Student Services resources by some students. It would be a mistake to claim that this never happens, and staff have to deal with it nonetheless.

    This has turned into a bit of a long post – I think I agree with you for the most part, I’m mainly concerned with the degree of misrepresentation of the work of Student Services staff in the original articles.

  15. I have a similar tale of mistreatment by the university, but I fear that if I told it the details would make me personally identifiable and I can only see bad things arising from that. I think that says something.

    I’ve never felt helped by the university, never that we were on the same side with a common goal. Every phone call, email, or meeting feels like a battle that you can only win if they choose to let you. You’re not part of the process here, you’re the subject. Student support are theoretically on my side but the attitude is a lot less “How can we help? What do you need?” and much more “Here are a list of less than perfect options gleaned from various university policies that could help your situation but could also make it worse.”

    And the ignorance and lack of understanding for what certain conditions actually entail is a big big problem.

  16. I agree this is a very one-sided article, but it does raise important issues. I think what’s most disturbing is the high number of people I know/ have heard of who are dissatisfied with the services provided, and there seems to be an ambiguity over the exact role of the university in it’s intervention in student’s mental health. Personally, I think the pressure of the such a high-achievement oriented place as St Andrews can contribute to mental health decline, and so the university does have a responsibility to care for its students. In my own experience, I found my SS counselor quite dismissive, as he did not appear to take my issues very seriously,nor did he give me advice on what to do about them. I didn’t feel that I was being listened to or supported, and I was discouraged to talk about problems which were not associated with academic life. Thankfully I found a service outside the university which has been far, far more helpful. Whilst I’m sure SS tried to do their best for me, making appointments was extremely difficult at times too. I hope this article, whilst not polarizing people too much, will encourage greater scrutiny of SS.

  17. I have had positive experiences with SS, who helped me when I was really struggling with clinical depression. They saw me straight away, arranged for counselling asap and have stayed in touch regularly in the 2 years since the initial event. My experiences with SS have definitely been good and I am grateful for their existence.
    However my main issue was with the faculty I am studying. The pro-dean and schools reaction to my illness made me regret actually seeking help and keeping them informed of my condition. I now look back and question their professionalism and it actually angers me when I think of how they dealt with my mental health problems. Especially when I hear of them bending over backward to support students that have a physical illness!! A clear case of double standards!! I would certainly think twice before going to them again, and I would actively discourage people from studying in that faculty.

    Saying that I know that the university will never get 100% satisfaction from all students, and even in well run departments or SS there will always be the exception to the rule. Human error does happen, it is just unfortunate when the impact of this is so major.
    SS have the training and staff to manage and understand mental health disorders and how some students are affected, but I think the main efforts should be put into educating the academic staff. Perhaps as part of their CPD, teaching staff should be made to complete modules on mental health problems?

    The stigma of mental health illness remains and until this is lessened there will always be cases of poor management due to misunderstandings of illnesses such as depression.

  18. I’ve had very mixed experiences. It’s obviously the case that a student counsellor is not a medical professional like a psychiatrist, moreover they don’t even need a degree in psychology, just a certificate in counselling, which anyone can get pretty quickly. When I studied psychology I remember being surprised by some studies that showed that counselling is actually bad for mental health problems. That’s not surprising when you think about it. Someone with moderate depression for example, is likely to need therapy and probably a small dose of anti-depressant medication to get their brain chemistry back on track. Being told how to improve your lifestyle is not something that will be of much help to someone with a crippling mental illness… I.e. Anything more than mild or ‘situational’ depression. I suffer from bipolar disorder for which I get excellent private treatment back home, but the multiple times that I have been to the counsellors here I have left feeling worse. One time stands out in particular – I was stressed by my self-harming and I was self-medicating with alcohol and the man I spoke to, who I will not name, concluded by telling me that it was up to me to change things and that I did not want to get better. How could he possibly have thought that that would help raise me out of the state I was in? If I didn’t want to get better I wouldn’t have gone to talk to him, and in with the very best interests of my mental health at heart I will not be going back! Nonetheless, the blame cannot all be placed upon student services, it is a shame that the NHS is overburdened to the extent that there is this level of pressure upon a group of staff who are not remotely medically trained.

  19. The Saint is most definitely not required to provide ‘balanced’ articles, especially in a case as subjective as this. Writers for The Saint have to work with what they can get, perhaps no one satisfied with the treatment they received were prepared to come forward. The volume of comments on this article demonstrates that this is not a skewed or misrepresented issue – the fact that many defenders of St. Andrews’ mental health system have done so in abusive terms if any crystallizes the point made in the article – shame on them! Finally, to say that the article is ‘poorly written’ is a petty and completely baseless claim, whether you agree with the findings of the research ultimately it is exactly the kind of well-written probing journalism that The Saint should be providing.

  20. Beth, whilst I think your daughter should have received more support whilst studying, I just want to point out that “failing by a 1/10th of a point” often does not mean that the student was very close to receiving a passing grade, but that they failed a significant part of either the exam or continuous assessment and so the grade is capped at just below passing (i.e. a 6.9).

  21. I don’t think it’s a very helpful article. It’s pretty much a given that you are going to have peaks and valleys when it comes to getting help, especially when you first start out. Seeking help and support for a mental illness is a huge topic in iteself, their a litrally shelves of research written on the topic, it cannot be condesned down to an article like this with quotes from a select amount of people saying, ‘I felt judged’ etc etc. There’s a huge chunk of contect lacking, everyone’s case is different and you can’t generalize based on handful of your mates’ opinions. A huge majority of people feel vulnerable and judged when comencing councelling, it’s not always as we percieve it. You have to accept that it may take time to work out what’s going to help you, it’s trail and error, there is no quick fix and very often the first councillor you see will not be right for you. You have to be pragmatic and look for help from a non-emotive stand-point, aganoising over wheather someone is judgeing you or not is not going to get you anywhere, even if it is hard to resit these thoughts.
    Anyone who recovered from a mental illness has tried different things, different therapies and people and I think you undermine this fact in the article.
    Having said all that, I strongly recommend you see a private psyclogist, many offer discounted rates for students and for those recommended through a GP. It’s simply unrealistic to expect an amazing service from a university student service. If it matters to you seek a high quality professional in a comfortable and safe setting

    • I agree – some people seem to be expecting the university to provide them with healthcare (and mental health absolutely does fall under this category). All Student Services can do (or really, *should* be doing) is providing students with sufficient support for getting them through their studies. They can’t provide treatment for mental health problems, just like they can’t set broken limbs or prescribe medicine. Sometimes people have a bad experience with counseling, and that’s shit for them, but it’s also a hugely subjective process and there are no quick fixes – mental health can be a lifelong battle, and many people are only starting to take the first steps when they come to university.

      • I am sympathetic to some of what you’re saying. SSS cannot be a mental health care provider, but it needs to be empowered to co-ordinate, for example, between students and departments when a member of the former fraternity suffers mental health problems. The University’s Policy, as it stands, is for the discretion to remain with those untrained in mental health issues in departments – which is fine from an objective point of view, but you a) don’t always want to tell a professor/doctoral candidate teaching you about your psychological demons, and b) in my experience, even if you did, you don’t always get referred to SSS for any support, and you end-up ill-represented being threatened with expulsion from the university (which, when you have problems, can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – this problem is really avoidable).

        No one is saying that SSS are doing a really bad job on purpose, but it is clear that – especially since reading week reforms were implemented – it is neither staffed nor equipped sufficiently to deal with the extent and the plethora of mental health problems prevalent in St. Andrews. A lot of people don’t even know that it exists – I did not until my final year, when a friend more familiar with the Union forced me to seek help with them.

        SSS needs to be an empowered communicator, mediator, and channel through which students can inform the necessary authorities of their problems – and then through whom the necessary measures can be negotiated (time off, extensions, etc). It is clear from the testimonies of what can at least be described as a significant minority, that SSS is not performing this function as well as it could be. This needs to be addressed, rather than people burying their heads in the sand while students are thrown out of university for problems/complications that, ultimately, could have been avoided or worked around.

        • I agree, communication is a big issue, and maybe more resources could be allocated from senior management to deal with it?

          If I understand how it works correctly, the problem faced by Student Services is that it has to serve as a communication hub between all students and all of their departments, many of which have disparate cultures, methods of assessment etc. SS also has to liaise with the NHS, private health companies, parents, other university units like Registry, and so on. I have no idea how much communication the whole department has to deal with but I wouldn’t be surprised with thousands of daily contacts.

          They also have to do this whilst balancing a commitment to academic standards – the idea behind the services available is to make university a level playing field for all, but how much support and how much leeway do you give someone before it becomes too much? This sounds harsh, but it’s not meant to be – I’m just trying to get to grips with the kind of judgment calls they have to make. And as a lot of the comments here show, people often feel they don’t get it right, for whatever reason.

          • In terms of caseload, you would probably have to ask SSS about it (they deal with a considerable amount through the year though, that’s for sure), and I think your analysis of how much communication they’re asked to do is in the correct ball park.

            In terms of leeway, I think if you’re a chronic sufferer, then university might be worth deeper consideration than is currently given to it, that’s for sure. However, there are quite a number of manageable conditions, in my opinion, that are allowed to become too much because support is not available across the board.

            Most people don’t know about it. Those that do often do not know the purposes of the service (as described above re. expectations management), and by the time that service is needed, one often has to communicate with a very unsympathetic department (which makes SSS’ job a lot harder). So part of the problem is awareness, and – though I cannot confirm this objectively – part of the problem is resources (there just are not enough to adequately serve the student body, and the different issues students face).

    • I don’t think anyone is asking for SSS to be able to deal every student with every variation of mental illness. But at the very least, it needs to act as a communicator between the student and their department, so that students with real issues don’t get thrown out of their course after a professor concludes they are either lazy or unable to complete work to the required standard.

      As for the comment that it isn’t a very helpful article, I could not disagree more…mental health isn’t discussed enough, yet it is a massive problem for many students. This is exactly what a student newspaper should be discussing. It’s all very well saying that every case is different, and that on the whole Student Support do a great job, but if you are the one who has been let down and failed your degree, that isn’t much of a consolation! Student Support Services shouldn’t be immune to criticism, no matter how hard they try to help.

  22. I think that D makes a valid point here. Student expectations seem to surpass what the University is able (or, to some extent, obliged) to provide. Having been a student and staff member at St Andrews I have had the opportunity to use and refer students to the Support Services. I now work at a different Scottish University and it has become evident to me that St Andrews students are offered much more than is available elsewhere. The very fact Student Services are continually trying to improve (by employing more counsellors etc.) shows their committment to making sure that students are supported to the best of their ability. It is sad that people feel they have had a poor experience but it also important that students have realistic expectations of what can be provided. Perhaps much of this anger/energy could be directed in a more positive towards lobbying those who make the decisions about financing this department rather than criticising the people who spend their days trying to help.

  23. It is also worth remembering, bar all of these ‘the university isn’t obliged to do x, y, z’ comments, that it is in the university’s interest to have its students graduating. higher numbers than necessarily not completing studies because of wholly avoidable complications (derived from mental health, or other, issues) can reflect very badly on the university, and give it a reputation it wouldn’t necessarily want to encourage.

  24. I went to St. Andrews for one year and left, a decade on I’m not working on a science PhD elsewhere. I wasn’t ‘mentally ill’ per sey, I just had a mental breakdown and jumped out a fourth story window, picked myself up dusted myself off and tried again from the stairs instead, but failed because my body was apparently too relaxed as I was beyond caring. And THEY forced me into that state because of that awful house head we had that would perform drills at 3 a.m. 3 to 4 nights each week plus other tortures which created a constant lack of sleep and starvation state. It was only when I drove face first into a wall, went catatonic and then only emerged to start screaming when that devil of a man was brought into the room they had me in that they even realised what he’d been doing to the students in his house. I wasn’t even his first student-suicide attempt… and so ended my career in classical Latin and Greek studies…

  25. I am a Journalist with over 30 years of experience. 20 of these in the national press. My daughter attends at St Andrews and sent me a link to this article. I find this article unnecessarily confrontational and very unsubstantiated.

    The Editors have positioned themselves in opposition to the University in this article to give the appearance of a scoop but i wonder if, in the small institutional community of St Andrews University, whether a collborative approach between the editors and university management would have been far more constructive. This would have allowed a much more comprehensive and informed article to have been writen and would have addressed concerns and explored this important issue in a much better way.

    If the Unversity refused to collaborate in this way, the article should have identified this and this might have formed the focus of the article and brought pressure on the Unviersity to engage and address concerns

    If the University was not given this opportunity, it should be a serious matter of concern that this article and many of the comments below it might deter vulnerable students, that require assistance and support, from accessing that support. Journalists have responsibilities in this regard.

    If any students who need support feel at all deterred from accessing support as a result of this article, please contact Student Services and raise your concerns directly with them. This article may be ill-considered. I would welcome the editors addressing these points.

    • Also a journalist of 30 years, also a parent, couldn’t agree more. Sloppy story that obviously hit a hot button, making the need for better coverage–better than a few concerning but rambling anecdotes–all the more pressing.

    • I attempted to make this comment in reply to yours, but it’s below instead as a new comment.
      Your criticism as a journalist demonstrates that The Saint need an experienced journalist to provide advice on writing. It is students who run the paper and they simply lack experience in journalism (as much as the student writers may baulk at this criticism, they have at most only a few years of experience at student papers). Such a person like yourself could provide advice not only on ways to improve such a sloppy, one-sided article, but of the possible fallout and consequences.

  26. Thank you for sharing your view as a journalist. The Saint really needs to have some sort of advisor, be a faculty advisor from within the university or an experienced journalist like yourself, to oversee their actions. The students who run The Saint need someone to consider the consequences of their articles, which they obviously do not.
    I am a postgraduate from the US, and at my undergraduate university all affiliated student groups, including newspapers, that received any benefit at all from the university was required to have a faculty advisor for precisely this reason. As much as The Saint likes to cry that it is independent of the university, if they have offices still in the Student Union or use any of the university facilities, they are benefiting from the university. They also distribute their papers on university grounds.

    • Whatever your thoughts on this article may be, your suggestion that The Saint be furnished with “a faculty advisor” is startling and deeply concerning. What you’re proposing essentially amounts to censorship.

      You say: “The students who run The Saint need someone to consider the consequences of their articles, which they obviously do not”. What are these consequences you speak of? Provoke debate? Well you’ve commented so that seems to have worked. Highlight a University service that, for many, has been found wanting? Well around 4,500 have read this piece so it’s ticked that box as well (lest we forget that several hundred have shared this article on Facebook and many have commented below agreeing with the tone of the piece).

      Student Services were given a right to reply and their comments are within the body of the article. If they’re still unhappy they’ve been criticised in this way, they can pursue a fruitless court case, but The Saint hasn’t committed libel so that’s not going to happen. Indeed, I notice that one of your letters has been published on the site so there you go, right to reply and all that being exercised.

      You may agree with this article, you may not. But that’s not the point. The point is that it should be written and the right to produce this kind of journalism is both vital and inalienable. Your comments betray a naivety that is both dismal and unsurprising.

      Finally: “As much as The Saint likes to cry that it is independent of the university, if they have offices still in the Student Union or use any of the university facilities, they are benefiting from the university. They also distribute their papers on university grounds.” In fact, it pays the Union to rent out the room, essentially like a newspaper hiring offices, how an earth that dilutes their independence I don’t know. You’re quite right that they distribute on University property, because they are students at St Andrews and thankfully St Andrews is an institution that believes in freedom of press. I’d advise you to take a leaf from their book.

      • This was meant to be in reply to Scoop’s comment.
        I’m not referring to censorship at all. I’m advocating an experienced person, preferably a journalist, to advise them. I’m referring to having a responsible adult helping them think through the consequences of their articles, because these students obviously are not, and help advise on basic journalism.

      • And the consequences I’m referring to are the consequences that Scoop mentioned:
        “If any students who need support feel at all deterred from accessing support as a result of this article, please contact Student Services and raise your concerns directly with them.”
        The consequence is that students may feel deterred from seeking assistance from the university. While they cannot provide the same services as the NHS or any private medical assistance, they can provide some advice on where students can seek further help.
        Student Services primarily help students navigate how to address academic concerns that results from such problem. And right here is issue at hand – SS can help by giving advice on how to proceed, but they can’t overrule the decisions of individual schools.

      • Re debate and naivety: much of the criticism of this article focuses on the fact that The Saint appears much less interested in debate than in sensationalist reporting. With most issues this isn’t a problem: mental health is different, however, because there is a risk that the misinformation contained in the original articles will discourage people from accessing the service who need it. Clearly not everyone’s had a great time with them, but the efforts of Student Services staff (and other organisations like Nightline) have also saved lives.

        Debate is good: it can help show where there are gaps and room for improvement. But with an issue like mental health, it’s so important that it’s carried out in a responsible manner, unlike the approach taken in these articles. So when you say this:

        “The point is that it should be written and the right to produce this kind of journalism is both vital and inalienable. Your comments betray a naivety that is both dismal and unsurprising.”

        …it strikes me that those who see The Saint as having performed some kind of service here are the ones guilty of naivety, because with an issue as important as this one, what is actually vital is that debate is conducted in good faith and with the best interests in mind of those who are suffering.

        I would argue that it would have been possible for The Saint to write about mental health resources in Student Services, whilst incorporating the content of the original articles, in a much more responsible manner. They have no obligation to act in this way, of course, but I’d also like to think St Andrews isn’t going to produce the next Paul Dacre.

        • I agree completely! That’s why I made the suggestion of having an experienced journalist or the like advise The Saint on their articles. This would not only help improve articles like these, but also help the writers learn more as journalists.

        • I’ve been through this system. This article is not sensationalist to me. I’d love to talk to press about what I went through as a student here. If I released the story to a Stand journalist my story would have little credibility. It was not only bizarre and sinister but so much so that many reading it wouldn’t believe it. Disbelief that comes from hearing things so far outside one’s field of experience is what I’m getting from the critical comments. The stories above are less sensationalist, more representative, than you seem to think.

          Reading the article before contacting SS shouldn’t have deterred me from trying their help given the state I found myself in. In fact, the ‘sensationalism’ of the article is so accurately summative of how I remember my experience of living in this place that I wish I’d read more writing like this before I wasted several years of study here.

          From someone who has gone through similar experiences, no, this article is not damaging or inappropriate to the very serious issue of mental health. The opposite.

  27. I have had some experience with Student Support Services. I don’t know if what happened to me was is the norm, but I found the whole set-up extremely amateurish. I went to speak to Student Support after feeling very depressed. I spoke to a counsellor. I spoke for around an hour, admitted that I felt suicidal, but hadn’t been able to go through with it. I properly opened up to them, as I realised I needed help. When I had finished explaining how I felt, they said virtually nothing. I left wondering what the point of going to seek help was, and felt embarrassed. And the worst thing was, I heard nothing more from Student Support. I’m not trying to attack those who work in Student Support, as I do agree they try their best, but my experience was anything but positive, and without wanting to go into detail, had a lasting impact on my degree.

    I agree that every student is ultimately responsible for their own degree, but when someone seeks help from the university, the last thing that should happen is that they are ignored. I think it is a wider problem with the whole university, reaching right to the Dean’s office; students with any problem are treated as a hassle and the communication between faculty, departments and student support may as well be by carrier pigeon. And in my experience, the aim seems to be to fob a student off rather than resolve their problem.

    • Those of us who focused on journalism did so because it was a sloppy biased analysis. We are concerned because mental health is such an important issue. The writers reported speaking to 3 students who had bad experiences. Did they attempt to discover if this was representative of the normal experience? How many students have felt they received sufficient assistance? While I feel great sympathy for the 3 students who shared their experience, how can we tell from this article if this is typical? The writers should have tried to investigate further before jumping to publish a sensationalist piece.

  28. I agree completely! That’s why I made the suggestion of having an experienced journalist or the like advise The Saint on their articles. This would not only help improve articles like these, but also help the writers learn more as journalists.

  29. Dude, people of the Saint, just because you write an article and people react to it doesn’t make the article valuable. In fact I would argue again, as others have, that the claims you make are unhelpful at best for someone trying to figure out how to juggle their mental health with academia.
    Alluding to the ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘any media attention is good attention’ clichés is foolish and ill-thought out. Much like giving Katie Hopkins a mic, you aren’t identifying truth, you’re scaremongering and finger-wagging and frankly you’re not considering the impact of your words. Granted, what you say is provocative, but we are reacting because what you say is potentially dangerous and hurtful to someone already afraid and confused about their situation. It’s spin.
    I know for fact that if I had read this at time when I really needed to talk SSS about my studies,I would have been left all the more scared and embarrassed.

    • I’ve been through this system. This article is not sensationalist to me. I’d love to talk to press about what I went through as a student here. If I released the story to a Stand journalist my story would have little credibility. It was not only bizarre and sinister but so much so that many reading it wouldn’t believe it. Disbelief that comes from hearing things so far outside one’s field of experience is what I’m getting from the critical comments. The stories above are less sensationalist, more representative, than you seem to think.

      Reading the article before contacting SS shouldn’t have deterred me from trying their help given the state I found myself in. In fact, the ‘sensationalism’ of the article is so accurately summative of how I remember my experience of living in this place that I wish I’d read more writing like this before I wasted several years of study here.

      From someone who has gone through similar experiences, no, this article is not damaging or inappropriate to the very serious issue of mental health. The opposite.

  30. Although I agree that the system does require work I wanted to include my experience as an ex student, who used the student support services as a mechanism to tackle my own depression. I personally found the very helpful, although my first counsellor was not for me I asked to be switched to another and she was great, supportive and really got me though a tough time. (I should say that the councillor whom I did not gel with saw my friend and she was her preferred councillor, I do think there is some case for personal preference with this kind of thing.)

    The councillor helped me get extensions when I needed them, made sure I was safe when I was too distressed to be on my own and eventually helped me to get a years leave of absence by personally contacting my head of school and lecturers to inform them of my situation. They also continued to offer regular support meetings on my return to make sure I was staying on top of things, despite no longer having active depression. I also know others who had similarly positive experiences with the student services councillors.

    Yes I admit, having only seen two councillors I cannot vouch for them all. However, I wanted to voice my personal satisfaction and gratitude towards the student services for helping me through a very difficult time.

  31. I am and ex student and diagnosed with depression in my second year. My depty head at school had called the university and told them of my situation but i had no support when i started. I was advised to go to SSS by a friend who worked for nightline. They were of little to no help. I ended up leaving within half a year. However i had a very good GP who referred me for counseling which i found extremely helpful. They were based around the back of the cottage hospital (before it moved up near morrisons). I have since had counseling where i live now from several different places and no one lived up to the lady in St Andrews other than 1, which was a volunteer. Had i not know the girl who worked for nightline i would not have contacted the right GP who was so understanding and may not have had the counselor i had. It was some time ago that i was at St Andrews and things may have changed but i would not have recommended it at the time.

  32. Well done on tackling this important issue, The Saint.

    I have a disability, including mental health problems, and the University have treated me disgustingly and illegally. I know I’m not the only one. Their default approach is to tell you to take a leave of absence (and then take another one when you return the next year – I know two people who this happened to), but if you choose to stay (like me), the university – both my department and Student Support make it almost impossible for you to stay.

    I have no respect for Student Services. I went to a senior person in Student Support Services at breaking point and told them the complete lack of support made me want to commit suicide. Their response was, “there’s a couple of things to try first, then you can commit suicide”. Student Support also leaked information which I had told them during ‘confidential’ counselling meetings back to my department. When I had a problem, I was just told to take it to the Senate. I also repeatedly tried contacting the person the University website listed as going to if you had a complaint about staff regarding a disability issue, but he didn’t reply to emails or replied saying to try Student Services (I made it clear in my email that I had). All this is just a small amount of what I had to endure to try and get a degree.

    The University can write pieces saying how great they are in helping students with mental illness, but I know from personal experience this is not the case, for everyone at least.

    The Saint: please continue to expose how the University really treats its disabled students (or at least some of them).

    • “the University have treated me disgustingly and illegally”, blah blah blah. If students are in such a state that they cannot operate as students, then they need to take a leave of absence. End of. Students who choose to stay when they should be on leave of absence invariably never turn up to lectures or tutorials (and when contacted about it, claim their illness prevents them); miss most/all deadlines (claiming their illness as an alibi); demand ridiculous extensions on pieces of work (ditto). The list goes on. All of this whilst asserting that they are “OK” and so should be allowed to stay. It is unfair on their student peers and unfair on the academic staff who have to “manage” the situation.

    • I need to talk to you because this comment resonates with me so strongly. I experienced illegal treatment like the leaks you mention but also other more sinister practices. Let me know when and if you ever see this comment. Will really be interesting to talk, have discussed this with journalists who write on the topic of academic bullying and with people who work at universities and are familiar with the culture. your comment is the first I’ve come across a first-hand account that matches my own so closely.

      standrewsmental@mail.com

      (its mail.com, not gmail!)

  33. very poor decision to write this article and then even publish it, those making these decisions should take a look at themselves, looks like the Saint is in pursuit of more hit-counters and advertising revenues (eg Student Drugs survey)

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