Fighting to Protect University Mental Health/Counselling Services

I have an article up at the PhDisabled blog, about the media debate currently going over student mental health services in the UK and how they are overstretched and underfunded.

Disabled PhD students are dealing with a lot at the moment. Apart from the ongoing academic disablism that we always face (see the #academicableism feed for many, many examples), there are specific situations dragging us down during this age of austerity. Student Finance England is finding ways to delay and turn down students’ applications for Disabled Students’ Allowance. (Anecdotal evidence includes my own fight to get it back – evidence of my disability that was always accepted in the past, has this year been refused. Talking to others, it seems that I’m absolutely not the only one.) Tuition fees are rising, which further excludes already-excluded disabled students, since disabled people are among the poorest people in society and are only getting poorer under the current government regime. And now there’s a crisis in the funding of mental health and counselling services based in universities.

The protection of our services at universities is a priority in these days of increasing exclusion – especially mental health/counselling services. Not all students with mental health problems would consider themselves disabled, but many would. As I say in the article, UCAS evidence suggests that increasing numbers of people with long-term mental health problems are applying to university in recent years. Meanwhile, non-disabled and disabled students alike deal with the mental health difficulties that can arise from stress at university. And disabled students face a whole lot of stress.

That’s why I’m arguing here that we need to talk about mental health services at universities and how they are under-funded. Unlike some university representatives, who apparently would rather we didn’t.

Cross-posted to Uncovering the Roof


I wanted my first proper ‘return’ post to be about something meaningful. The way Asperger’s has been (possibly incorrectly) related to the shooting in California, and what that says about the Othering of neurodivergent people, for example. Or the cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance which are going to further exclude a group of students who are already extremely marginalized in academia. And hopefully I’ll come back to each of those topics. Continue reading

That Which Has Changed

Well, here I am. Shiny new blog. I’ve copied a lot of my old posts since 2008 over from the old blog (not all of them, because writing from more than 3 years ago can be very embarrassing). It’s strange, reading through them. So much has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same, when it comes to disability rights. The old blog will stay up, including the earlier posts. Continue reading

Adventures in Lifts

ARGH. I am trying to read about the ICIDH (for a seminar this afternoon on Disability and Language). The ICIDH was the forerunner to the ICF. Both are largely medical-model in outlook, although their original designers didn’t think so. There are a few redeeming features to both which are interesting to consider – for about two minutes. Then it all gets horribly *dull*. It’s a go-nowhere debate, because although I agree that the ICIDH is pants and rubbish in itself, and the ICF not much better, the sociologists behind them write (mainly) nice things about how they intended the focus to be social not medical, and the Disability Studies proponents reply with angry articles about how they didn’t achieve this aim, and no one can see anyone else’s viewpoint, and never the twain shall meet. And in the meantime, I *know* the social model – I’m revving the engine trying to get into the more interesting stuff (coming up in future seminars) about social theory of disability, and such fascinating ideas as whether that can include those who don’t feel included by the social model without alienating those who are completely in love with the aforementioned social model and will never deviate from any of its claims… My problem is also that I can see both sides of the debate on language, being a linguist. I was once a firm believer that ‘impairment’ and ‘disablity’ were entirely separate things that had almost no relationship to each other. Listening to the views of real disabled people (*not* non-disabled sociologists who are stuck in their academic ivory towers with the high windows and blackout blinds) has led me to begin to rethink the relationship between the two. But as I say, that’s for social theory, not social model, as I won’t have anyone touch the social model with so much as a fingernail, or I’ll bash them over the head with Haralambos’s ‘Sociology: Themes and Perspectives‘. Which is very heavy. Just so you know. So, yes, my views are complicated. I have a feeling this course is only going to make them more so. Hurrah. I think…

But never mind. Let’s talk about just one reason why the social model is still Queen of All, especially where the education of poor unwitting little non-disabled people is concerned. I am having interesting encounters with lifts at the moment. Last Friday evening would have been fantastic (Sci-fi Soc film night: Doctor Horrible and Stardust – fun with supervillains then more fun with gay pirates, hurrah), were it not for the sodding union lift that is seriously getting in the way of my life at the moment. Well, primarily the lift. Also the attitudes of union staff. (Ah yes, because disabling barriers can have many dimensions.)

Between films, I took the lift down from the second floor, where we were enjoying our televisual delights, in an attempt to find myself an accessible loo and a cup of tea. On reaching the ground floor I went into the bar, where they were just closing up, but were kind enough to grab me a takeaway tea while doing so. I tried to head back out the doors I’d just come in through, but found them locked.

I should, at this point in the story, make it clear that there are two different lifts on two different sides of the union building. Each lift goes to different floors, but they both happen to stop on the first floor. By locking this door, the staff had blocked my access (on this floor at least) to the lift I needed to get back to the second floor. I could have asked at the bar for it to be unlocked, but I reckoned that by the time they’d called security etc to arrange this, it would be quicker to go up in the other lift to the first floor and then change to the other lift there for the second floor.

So off I go, arriving on the first floor and heading across the corridor to the other set of lifts. All is going well, until I encounter *another* set of locked doors. Right, I think, I’ll head over to reception to get everything unlocked, then go on my merry way. Except that, on returning to the other lift that I had exited from literally moments before, it becomes clear that it has broken down. For the FIFTH time that week (and those were just the times when I was there to count). I am now stuck on the first floor and, regardless, have no way of getting back to my society’s meeting room. I make a *massive* fuss about all this (as I’m sure you can imagine). Security staff are called to help. They tell me – like so many union staff have during the Glorious Week of the Broken-Down Lift – that “it’s a very old and unpredictable lift”. I see – does that mean you’re flouting the DDA any less? They then tell me that they always lock up the other set of lifts because they’re under pressure to get “as many doors locked as possible”. They say that if they had known a society was meeting, they wouldn’t have done. I think this is probably rubbish, as the Sci-Fi Society meets there every Friday. I take their e-mail addresses so I can inform them every time I want to use that floor in the evening (although that reminds me – I shouldn’t have to, and I need to raise this with the Exec at some point). I then, finally, get taken through to the lift, with a promise that they will not lock me into the building. (Which turned out to be only half-true – the automatic doors had been shut off when I got back to the ground floor, and I had to struggle with the manual ones, but these were at least unlocked.)

As you can imagine, I complained to the Exec about the lift at the end of the Glorious Week. They’ve said they want to get it replaced, but I have yet to hear if they are going to. I’ll keep bother them about it. Repeatedly.

The Social Model: until society sorts out its bloody lifts, it’s not a bad start.

And now I have to go and finish reading too many people debating it. Gaaaaaaaah.