Recognising the need for support

02 November 2023
Volume 15 · Issue 11


While coping with a series of difficult life events alongside university commitments, Dan Wyatt reflects on his realisation about the importance of recognising when we may require some additional support and having the humility and courage to ask for it

In recent weeks, two events have occurred that have impacted myself and close family significantly. They need not be elaborated on here, but for saying, that it caused me to stop for a short moment and ponder if I would need some help or support—both academically and personally—over the coming weeks and months.

Working towards a degree in medicine, paramedicine and any other allied health subject can be a huge undertaking. The work required is hard—academically, physically, and mentally. When this is coupled with life outside of lectures, lab classes and placements, it can often feel like one is trying to balance many differing boxes or trying to spin many differing plates, as seen in circuses throughout the world (and which appeared frequently on the BBC's Generation Game in my youth). As a result, it can be easy for problems to arise or for a small issue to soon develop into a big problem—postentially causing an increase in stress, anxiety, and possibly further mental health issues. I am now realising that feeling overwhelmed is a perfectly normal reaction and a good first sign that it may be worth talking to someone. As the adage goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, although in reality it may not quite be the case!

Being a healthcare student, I am in the fortunate position to have many differing avenues of support and, in briefly highlighting some, I hope that I may make others aware of the help that is there when needed. Within the framework of my particular university, we are lucky to have some fantastic members of staff that are supportive, approachable, and easy to talk to. In addition (and as is the case with many universities), we have a well established student support team that are on hand to help with a wide array of issues and signpost students to support beyond the university. We also have a Chaplaincy team available to help, and the Students Union to support students as they progress through university. Within the realm of the ambulance service, there are Mental Health First Aiders, Wellbeing Champions, the Staff Advice and Liaison Service (SALS) and others, that can provide health and wellbeing support. When on placement within an NHS hospital, staff wellbeing support also exists. In my local area, staff have access to emotional wellbeing, counselling, stress management and occupational health services to name but a few—not to mention the support we can gain fron friends, colleagues, tutors, and mentors.

I am not usually one to ask for help. I do have a tendency to keep things to myself and ‘battle through’. Perhaps this is due to my age, the generation in which I grew up, or maybe society's expectation of what a healthcare worker should be has inadvertently led to my reluctance to seek support. However, the seriousness of recent events has allowed me to realise that I am not some kind of superhero and that it is okay to talk, ask for help, and feel fallible or vulnerable. We can, on occasion, carry a great deal of weight on our shoulders, but it is okay to try and share some of that weight. The secret is to learn to recognise when you need to ask for help and ask!