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The one lurking behind you

Mentioning Mental illness in personal statement for uni application

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Heya, hope you're all not doing too badly

 

I don't know if any of you remember me but i used to post quite a bit about a year ago. Well since those crazy times I've become much better (don't want to get into the debate of when someone is 'recovered') but yh a lot better!

 

Next year I will be starting university, hopefully studying English lit and creative writing and I need to write a personal statement (4000 characters long) explainging why I want to study the course and what makes me a suitable candidate etc. I dont know what the system is in other countries (im from the UK) but hopefully you get the idea of what a personal statement is.

 

I dropped out of sixth form (the two years of A-levels before people go onto uni) in my first year and had to restart in the year below. I'm now in my second year and therefor planning my future at uni. I'm worried that uni's will read it though and do the maths with my birthday and think...'wait a minute this candidate is a year older than most and she hasn't mentioned taking a gap year...whats going on' or that my referee (the head of my sixth form) will mention something in the reference which may seem odd if I dont mention anything in my statement and vice versa. I'm terrified of getting discriminated against for my illness -  I know I shouldnt coz if the uni did they'd be in deep shit meaning that if they do they will do it in a sly manner which is, honestly, even more hurtful than the truth.

 

So what I'm trying to ask, through all the waffling, is; should I include something about me having had a mental illness in my personal statement?

Also should I consider myself as having had a mental illness or is it something that never really goes? And if i do mention it should I then tick yes to 'disability' on the form? (and even apply for student disability benefits?)

 

I know i should probably talk to someone at my sixth form about this but I'm a bit shy.

 

 

 

(BTW I am no longer on any meds and have been discharged from my pdoc's care - since June this year- and am not recieveing any therapy or am in contact with any mental health services)

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You don't have to specifically mention your gap year. They are far more likely to assume that you took a year off to save some money because uni is expensive.

I personally wouldn't mention the specifics. If you feel that you must, you could say that you've encountered some health challenges and that you've learned a lot about yourself and how others react when someone is ill around them.

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I am glad you have recovered from your depression.  I agree with Rosie.  My immediate instinct is that you should not mention it.

 

There is still a lot of stigma and this is just not information they need.  It is not unusual for someone your age to take a year off to travel or work, or whatever.  

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Thank you for your replies. It saddens me that there is such stigma but I also have to accept that it does exist. It's just a little frustrating I suppose as if it were due to a physical illness I would be much more likely to include it.

 

I will try and work around it. Maybe throwing in a line about having gained coping mechanisms for stress of something, we'll see.

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Thank you Titania :)

I've come up with this as a section of my first draft, let me know what you think...do i dwell on it too much?:
(EDITED TO EMIT MY PERSONAL STATEMENT SO IT DOESN'T COME BACK AS HAVING PLAGIARISM ISSUES WHEN I SUBMIT IT) 

 

Erm what do you think? I'm tempted to maybe add something about creativity but I dont want to waffle...

Edited by The one lurking behind you

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I personally wouldn't mention it per se. What I mean is, it's not worth mentioning it for the sake of it, since, as others have mentioned, it's not weird to have taken a year out (although people might well mention the content of said year in the personal statement for example).

 

However, it is absolutely not permitted for the unis to discriminate based on your experience. But, as is the nature of your personal statement, if you feel that your MI has contributed to your character and/or your feelings towards a course in a way that you'd like to show, explain away! Dwelling on it too much is a question you have to answer - how much has it shaped you, etc?

 

If you feel like you're creative and that is another motivation to do the course, mention it too. If that was what you meant..?

 

Also, please do get in touch with Student Services at your university! It can be really helpful with accommodations and stuff, even if you don't need them.

Edited by EyeMindBeingGrim

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I would post this question specifically to folks living in the UK who know about UK admissions standards. In the US, it probably would not be a good idea so that is likely the main answer you will get here.

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I'm at uni in the UK and my university has been very supportive. I had to take a year out of uni due to depression and I'm registered with disability services. My tutor was recently giving me advice on applying for post graduate study here and I don't think that it'll be a problem then. So, I don't think it'd be a problem if you did want to talk about having experienced mental illness in your personal statement.

You probably don't need to explain why you did your A levels a year later than expected though. UCAS personal statements aren't too long and I'm sure there are lots of boring reasons why someone would take slightly longer to sit their A levels that wouldn't be worth discussing (like working for a year or health stuff that might be totally irrelevant to the degree).

But! Seeing as your experience is relevant to english lit (there's lots of MI in english lit) and creative writing, particularly as it was something that prompted you to start writing on a regular basis, I think it would be entirely appropriate for a personal statement. I've heard that it's good if personal statements are a bit individual anyway, otherwise they all blend into one for the people reading them. 

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It's nice to hear from someone who is already at uni in the UK, Squish and how well your university, by the sound of it, has helped you. I will mention it, i am yet to show my teachers my personal statement to have a look over, it'll be interesting to see their response to me adding that in and if they are supportive and understanding of me wanting to keep it in there as it IS relevant to me.

 

If you guys want to know, I'll let you know when i hear back from the uni's if I've been accepted to any :)

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I mentioned mine on a grad school application (I had to explain a drop out of school and poor grade prior), I'm in the US, and I had a great response. They had wanted some clarification about those grades and I was accepted within 2 days of submitting that essay.

 

So it's really all in what school you're going to and for what.

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Please keep us updated on how to your applications go, The one lurking behind you!

 

Still subject to the whims and caprices of UCAS these days, are we?

 

Gah, I remember those good old, bad old days  :rolleyes: !

 

Wish you luck!

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Thank you Titania :)

I've come up with this as a section of my first draft, let me know what you think...do i dwell on it too much?:

I also have a keen yet amateur interest in psychology after my own personal battle with depression in 2011/12 forced me to take some time out for myself and restart sixth form in September 2012. During this time I became a member of a mental health forum, posting a daily blog which entered my relationship with language onto a cathartic level. Since this I started my first blog on which I originally posted reviews and essays on books, films and TV shows and am now beginning a new blog to campaign against the stigma surrounding mental health. The strength I have gained from these experiences has been invaluable,making me focused to achieve my aspirations, and not waste a single moment or opportunity life has to offer.

 

Erm what do you think? I'm tempted to maybe add something about creativity but I dont want to waffle...

Personally I did not mention anything about my health in the UCAS personal statement. They are interested in why you want to study NOW and what skills/interests you have NOW, not what happened 2 years ago that caused you to miss your A-levels or whatever. It is very important to show them what motivates you - a degree is hard work and a lot of people drop out, switch courses and so on.  

 

You really don't need to write 'restart 6th form in sept 2012' - they can see you did that from your study history.   It is up to you but if it were me I would not go in as much depth. Also you write a lot about psychology/mental health but you are applying for creative writing/English, which seems a bit odd?  Sorry I'm not trying to be negative I'm just saying what I see really.  Only real tip I can offer is DO NOT waffle and do not feel the need to fill the full 48 lines (or whatever it is).  Admissions tutors read hundreds of these things and will be grateful for  well written short and punchy statement that covers the points required. 

 

Also I would declare your depression as a 'disability' on the UCAS from and do consider applying for disabled students allowance (DSA) - you can get all sorts of extra support to help your studies. 1-2-1 study support and 1-2-1 mentoring for example. The mentoring and allowances I get through DSA have really helped me get this far on my course. 

 

EDIT:

oh and do not post up part of your personal statement on the internet!   UCAS check PS for plagiarism and they compare against all sorts of data (previous statements, online content, etc) so there is a risk there. Plus there is the off chance someone could copy what you have written and use it for their own application. It is important to keep your PS secret - but obviously you can ask college tutors/friends/family to give you an opinion. 

Edited by crazyguy

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I agree with crazyguy. Especially with plagiarism checkers. Maybe write a short story in first person (or perhaps third person) as a personal statement? Be creative. More than this happened. . A lot of people see anything, and I am so sorry for saying this because i don't agree with it, as an excuse or a cop out.

 

Creativity is key.

 

Personal statements blow.

 

A lot of people use disability services, very common. Signing up before you need them (or even if you never do) is a good idea. They are always there if you do. A lot of students find a lot of help with them. At my school, even students nervous about tests in large classrooms could use disability services to get quiet, private rooms for tests, for example. They had certified psychologists available for counseling, too. I had a great counselor, who I wished I still had. I keep in touch. There are a lot of options, free peer tutoring, meetings for study groups, so much more. College is stressful for a LOT of people. A local university has a puppy room around exams! No joke. People can go play with the puppies during exam time to de-stress.

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There is a specific place you could mention it on the UCAS form. 

You may be OK now, but you could add in the specifier that you are in a long term recovery. But it may open up support when you get to uni that may prevent a relapse. 

 

EDIT: University's in the UK are also places with a wide age range of students. Some do not go straight from school to university, some also do not do A-Levels until later in life. That year out is probably not going to be that unusual for them. 

Edited by helenllama

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I'm from the Uk, I graduated from university in July... I didn't mention it on my university personal statement because I couldn't find any relevance for it or tie it in with anything. I don't think they would discriminate you for doing that BUT I didn't and when I had been accepted onto my course THEN I told them about my MI. Which is perfectly fine and acceptable.

 

The university wont care about the gap year you took, honestly they really wont. I have friends who took a year out, my husband took 3 out and no one cared. Please don't be put off by having to stay behind a year. You don't even have to tell them WHY you took a year out, they wont care. People don't always know what they want to do when they leave school, and if it takes you a couple of years to find uni, as far as the university are concerned that's fine. This isn't meant to sound harsh but the uni want you there, because it makes them look good, how you got to uni is your business and not theirs. The only thing they will be concerned about is if you have a criminal record, and even then so long as you declare it and its not for something terrible like being a serial killer, they may even let you on the course. 

 

I would definitely mention your MI when you get to uni, because even if you're recovered or part recovered uni can be a bit of a shock to the system and the uni will have facilities in place to help you so don't be afraid to take advantages of these when you get there. It's all confidential too and NO ONE will make you feel silly for being at uni and having to use MI help resources. Plus if you relapse and uni know about it, it is easier to get extensions. You can let shit happen and then go tell them about your MI, which is what I did and it did work out okay, but be aware that it is a 'sooner the better' case, and it is a lot less stressful to deal with it before it spirals out of control.

 

Without the support team at my university I would never have gotten through my final year. I struggled with my MI silently for my first two years because I was terrified they would 'want proof' and that I wouldn't be taken seriously...but they are really understanding, if you have depression an ED or any other illness they will take your word for it. If you want to apply for disability you will need evidence like doctors notes etc. because otherwise everyone would be claiming it, but as far as university goes you don't even have to make them aware of it. You could even just tell your lecturers and not the main university body if you liked, but I strongly advise you do let them know because they are amazing.

 

I wish you the best of luck! :-) If you ever need anything feel free to PM me :-)

Edited by Paperskyscraper

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Thank you Paperskyscraper (love your name by the way)

I'm considering getting rid of it in my personal statement purely becuase of the very limited word count but everyones kind words have given me the confidence to let the uni know, which will be by putting it in the disability section on the UCAS form. I'd rather have a safety net for me set up for uni as recently the stress of coursework has gotten to my mental health a bit.I still need my teachers to proof read my personal statement, but apart from that almost finished applying to uni....very exciting!! :D

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I don't know what the culture in the UK is with respect to this, but in this country (US) it could be a hindrance. I take it that it is not the same in the UK. However, if I were you, I would not disclose it to anyone at the university who will be writing letters of reference for your job search post uni. I got burned big time by this.

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Cool topic.  First off, remember that not all universities want to hear the same thing, but...

 

I partially got into my current doctorate/PhD program (computational medicine) due to mentioning in my personal essay that I suffered from chronic physical illness that would have been entirely avoided had there been better clinical decision support systems.  I was accepted within three months and granted full tuition waiver and a living stipend, though I think I got lucky.  It could have been that they liked another essay of mine (e.g. my research proposal) a lot more.  I never mentioned my MI, and the only MI I ever plan to mention to my now-current university is my AD/HD so that the rare event that I am late for something is excused.

 

For what it's worth, I live in the US, where traditionally, admitting any sort of weakness is an excuse for everybody around you to get right down your throat about it.  So far my weaknesses have been accepted, but then again, I've never told any of my colleagues that I have latent depression or severe sleep issues.

 

Note that my story has to do primarily with physical illness and post-graduate level education, and not MI and undergraduate studies.  However, since your major is psychology, I think it is *possible* that a disclosure of MI could help your application.  I have a friend with HFA who disclosed his autism on a (well, grad school again) application for a biomedical research science program and he was accepted on that basis -- he wanted to further research the biological basis for autistic issues, much as I wanted to increase computational intelligence for the detection of rare connective tissue diseases..  It really depends on the university and their attitude towards helping those with disabilities and alternate learning styles. 

 

Despite the relatively cutthroat culture in the US, many universities here are a bit gentler to those of us born with physical and mental illness. 

 

Again, though, I don't think that there exists a universal rule with regards to your situation; it depends upon the university and their willingness to deal with honesty and willingness to give sympathy.  However, anything said in context could quite possibly help.  Best of luck!!!!!

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