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Depressed 3rd year student - could he defer his 3rd year at this point in the semester?

(16 Posts)
TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 03-Nov-13 23:27:01

I hope some university people can help.

DS2 has seemed fairly low since part way through his 2nd year & has now admitted being actually depressed & really not enjoying his course (or anything else, it's so sad)

Rather than slogging on through this year & probably not doing as well as he should (I have no idea how he did in 2nd year exams) would it be possible/better for him to drop out at this point, sort himself out, & start his 3rd year again next year? Obviously he's had his first bit of student finance this term, I don't know how that works either.

Any advice appreciated.

SatinSandals Mon 04-Nov-13 07:42:43

I am not a university person, but my nephew was very similar, in year 2, depressed and not enjoying the course. He had a year off and went back and did the 3rd year and successfully graduated this year. He needs to talk to a counsellor at the university.

MrsBranestawm Mon 04-Nov-13 07:44:17

I'm going to pm you.

creamteas Mon 04-Nov-13 09:07:44

The answer is yes, it should be possible. The exact way to organise this can be different at different universities.

Where I currently work, students need to make an application for Leave of Absence (LOA) through there personal tutor. In my previous university, all applications needed to go through student support.

All students can borrow money for the length of their course plus one year, so although he will have more to pay back, it should be possible financially to do this.

Other options which are sometimes possible depending on the specific circumstances are to go part-time (or to return after LOA part-time) or to transfer to another university for the final year (near home) or the Open University.

We have an three or four students in each year that take a LOA for various reasons including issues around mental health. So this is not an unusual situation for us, although students can feel quite isolated and sometimes worry what others might think.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Mon 04-Nov-13 10:54:13

thank you all for advice (MrsBranestawm, I have replied)

It's good to know that it's not unusual, & will be possible if it does turn out to be necessary. He is coming home overnight on Wednesday so we can talk then about what he thinks would be the best way forward; then if he does want to take LOA he can speak to his personal tutor when he goes back.

But it could be that having his depression recognised, acknowledged & dealt with (in whatever way seems appropriate) might be enough to get him through. We shall see.

I do love mumsnet - there is always somebody to listen & help!

creamteas Mon 04-Nov-13 15:04:48

Don't forget, depression is a disability. The University disability service will be able to support and advise too.

UptheChimney Mon 04-Nov-13 19:44:48

Yes, it should be possible. But he needs to have evidence he's sought appropriate help & advice. So he should get straight to his GP, and the Student Counselling Service. As a former Head of Department, I dealt with two or three of these each year, but I always needed to see appropriate expert advice.

A creamteas says I am her evil twin it'll be a Leave of Absence, or intercalation, or interruption (those are the terms used at the various universities I've worked at). And generally, the clock stops wherever, and then starts up again a year later. It's still fairly early in the term (we're on Week 7, but other places start later & have shorter terms) although the "census date" has passed so it is more complicated.

If I were advising him, I'd be pushing him to get proper medical advice ASAP -- such as an emergency appointment tomorrow and then writing off this term, with a view to starting his 3rd Year over again next September. It will cost more of course, and if he's made a contract for accommodation his landlord may not let him out of the rental contract & so on. But as a parent, I'd be thinking that the money etc, is secondary to my child's mental & physical health & well-being.

As an academic, I would also want to be sure that he was getting some proper help while on LoA. He'd need to pass a "fit to study/return" assessment: we'd generally want medical/counsellor advice (in writing etc) that the student was able to deal with his/her illness, and manage it, and had support for the crunch times, and was amenable to seeking that support . This latter aspect is important: there is A LOT of support available, but what is frustrating is students' reluctance to seek it and use it.

sashh Tue 05-Nov-13 08:26:54


I did a similar thing but actually went to another uni.

A friend dropped out twice and finally went to a different uni part time while working.

Health always trumps, so it is possible but as others have said take action now.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Tue 05-Nov-13 20:07:00

Thanks for new replies smile. I will pass all this helpful information on to him.

He will see the GP here on Thursday morning & can then go back to speak to student support. He is very keen to get LOA as soon as he can & would prefer to restart his 3rd year somewhere else entirely, as sashh did - how easy is he likely to find that, creamteas & eviltwin UptheChimney? How should he go about it?

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Thu 07-Nov-13 16:17:44

He now has a prescription for fluoxetine (= Prozac) & has to see GP again in 2 weeks. He will see his personal tutor tomorrow & I hope he will be steered towards welfare tutor (?) & possibly counselling.

Just admitting he has a problem, & taking the first steps to deal with it, have already helped. At the moment he is down on his course, his housemates, the city, the university, everything; I think he is beginning to recognise that all of that stems from the depression, & they're not actually as bad as he's been feeling they are.

So, he says he will attend lectures & seminars over the next 2 weeks & will try to keep on top of essays. If it does all get too much at least they'll know now that he might need help.

We're thinking CBT might be useful. I know university funds for this sort of things are tight, but we could pay for it, so should he be able to get a referral to see someone privately?

UptheChimney Fri 08-Nov-13 02:00:11

One thing I suggest to struggling students is that in interactive learning, such as seminars and tutorials, they set themselves the goal of contributing one thing to the discussion -- whether it's a comment, or a question doesn't matter - but some sort of contribution buys them in to engaging and participating. It can be a small way to try to short circuit the kind if negative vicious circle that they can find themselves in.

It'll be small steps, baby steps for him for a while. Good luck to you all.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Fri 08-Nov-13 22:13:10

Thanks, chimney smile

He is still at home - he was supposed to go back this afternoon but spent the entire afternoon asleep on the sofa, then went to bed, then got up again about 6 hours later

It's not looking good tbh sad

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Fri 08-Nov-13 22:15:13

No idea if that's down to depression or anti-ds...

DS2 is DC4, haven't had to deal with this with the other 3, I am floundering a bit

UptheChimney Tue 12-Nov-13 14:48:17

This must be really tough for you both, TheOne -- but if your son isn't capable of taking action to apply for an intercalation or Leave of Absence, you need to step in. Prompt action is needed here, really. Depression is an illness -- think of what you'd do if he's broken an arm quite badly? Then do that.

I'd be finding out the name of his Department's Welfare Tutor, Director of Studies, or Undergraduate Director (different Departments use different names) and email him/her, outlining the bare bones of your son's illness, and asking about next steps for applying for LoA. You can go on a Department website, or ring the Departmental office. If the administrators are like mine, they'll be really helpful, within the law of course.

CC your email to your son's official University email, and say that you're taking action on behalf of your son. Tell the Welfare Tutor (or HoD or whomever) that your son has given you permission to take what action you can, and give the tutor your son's number to call him so he can confirm this. It really sounds as though he's not well enough to deal with it himself. Give a phone number at which you can be reliably contacted (and don't do what one parent did to me a few years ago after they'd practically harassed me about dealing with their child's illness, and then refused to take a call because they were in the Quiet Zone of a train & didn't want to leave their seat because they had work to do. Grrr)

Anyway ...

I think you may also have to have a potentially difficult conversation with your son. In my experience (ack! Over 25 years! When did that happen?) sometimes this kind of behaviour is precipitated, or exacerbated, by a student's own actions: severe underperformance, or a student getting themselves in a tangle over attendance (or rather, absence), late work or work not done, or failing (or expectation of failure). This may not be the case for your son -- it may simply be that he is ill (well, that's not simple, but IYSWIM). But if there are other things that mean that he hasn't been pursuing his studies with what we call "reasonable diligence" you need to know the worst, as if you go in to help with half-knowledge, you may find that tutors are not completely sympathetic. If there is something more than illness, you need then to deal with it as impassively & non-judgementally as possible, which is hard, I know.

Students can go into a real panic and do very silly things over fear of failing or fear of not living up to expectations. I've sat on the highest disciplinary committee of my university to determine penalties for exam cheating etc and one thread throughout the hearings is the student story that not to get a First or 2, i, would be unthinkable. So they cheat, and it is 200 times worse than an honestly earned 2, ii or 3rd ... it's so frustrating and sad.

So he needs to be reassured that if he has got himself into a mess, it can be sorted out. We've seen it all, honestly. Just as an individual tutor, I've dealt with 20 year old alcoholics, rape victims, and students who've done criminal violence (well, the latter we went straight to the police), so his tutors will just want him to be upfront about his difficulties, so they can straighten things out.

Of course, if there are no underlying issues, then it's a matter of medical evidence and advice. As quickly as possible, and I suggest that you take action (and I rarely want to deal with parents, except in cases like this).

Good luck.

JuliaScurr Tue 12-Nov-13 14:57:31

(ex uni admin here)
phone/email to find correct uni dept to contact & what they need
get relevant regulations
get medical etc evidence
photocopy everything
good luck

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Tue 12-Nov-13 22:42:49

thanks to you both smile

he went back on Sunday, & it turns out this is his Reading Week, which gives us a breathing space

He was due to see both personal tutor & welfare officer today, but his phone was broken & he hasn't picked it up from repair place yet, so I can only communicate via interweb (which is limited by when he chooses to post hmm)

I think I have reassured him that this can all be dealt with, one way or another, but need him to have functioning phone to discuss properly

all your advice is really helpful & reassuring & I know we will sort it out


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