How it’s like to study with a functional disability
How it’s like to study with a functional disability

There are more students walking around with mental problems than you think. Due to the constant battle between students to get the highest grade and the pressure to perform, this pressure can result in depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder or some other kind of mental illness. When I look at the university where I’m currently studying, I’m seeing changes that are slowly taking place to help students with mental problems.

Help at university

Monthly meetings are organised for students. In these meetings, given by study advisers and a teacher, you can talk about personal problems that you encounter as a student. This can be anything. No one is judged for what he or she says in the meeting. In addition, since this year there is a kind of open consultation hour where students can talk to the student psychologist individually. If necessary, the student can be referred to a primary care psychologist. All these options my university is offering make it easier to reach out for help.

Studying and mental problems

When I started studying, all the options to get help at university did not existed yet.There was a student psychologist, but I didn’t know anything about it then. My psychological problems started halfway through my first year at uni. Not because of the study load, but because of experiences that took place in my youth. During the first two years my study program looked like any regular student: I had two courses and two exams each term. In the meantime I also was in therapy. Eventually I realised that I was no longer able, while being in therapy, to study.

My experience with help at university

My practitioner back then insisted that I talked to my study advisor about this. The talk with my study adviser went well. She understood me and my situation and she wanted to help me so that university and therapy weren’t too much for me. Together we came up with some solutions. Not going to university for a whole year was a no go for me. In the end we came up with the idea of ​​doing my third year in two years so that I had one course each block, reducing study pressure by half.

In the beginning this felt like failure. I saw my fellow students getting closer to graduation and I had to study for another year … In retrospect, it was a good choice to take it a bit easier. I can say that it did me well and my grades. It benefited myself and my grades. Now I am almost done with studying. I have taken my final test and if all goes well I can graduate at the end of April. It all took a little bit longer, but I certainly didn’t fail.

My message to you

Having told my story I want to make it clear that you do not have to get your diploma within the timeline determined by the government like everyone else. In that sense, I think the government puts too much pressure on students because you only receive a grant for a certain number of years and you have to obtain your diploma within ten years to avoid debts.

What I want to say is: determine your own timeline. If you need time and space at any given moment, take it. If you are not feeling well, talk about it with someone from your school. Nobody will laugh or judge you when you say you’re not doing well. Together you can search for a feasible solution. Age also doesn’t matter. I really think that it is better to finish studying when you are 26 than when you are 22. You have to work until you’re 77 years old after all 😉



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By telling others about my own experiences, I hope to support people that deal with mental disorders in their own process. I find it important that mental illnesses are recognised as real diseases, even though they might not be visible to the eye.

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