Categories
Well-Being

Dissociation – two sides of the same coin

So, what is dissociation?

Dissociation is a much debated and difficult to articulate concept that alludes being pinned down by one succinct definition. This altered state of being can be experienced by most people as a typical part of their day-to-day lives. Many of us will be familiar with the experience of driving on autopilot and getting to your destination safely. This is a normal and non-disruptive procedural dissociative state. The brain functions guiding you in this state function beyond your conscious attention, you are present yet absent.

Another example of dissociation can also be seen in everyday hypnotic states. When watching a film or a television programme you find yourself emotionally moved by what you are viewing despite no real impact being made to your life or well-being.

Unfortunately, dissociation has a more disruptive, darker side. Commonly experienced as a significant disconnection between conscious attention, awareness and ones understanding of reality. Dissociation is often likened to seeing oneself floating, separate from oneself, or as living life in third person. This may be experienced as ongoing feelings of unreality of one’s self or surroundings (derealisation/depersonalisation) seen as part of PTSD, Bipolar disorders (BP), personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD).

These often have a basis in anxiety or trauma which often mitigate the levels of dissociation experienced. Contrastingly, dissociation can be caused by deep rooted identity manifestations such that seen in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the DSM-5-unrecognised variations Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD) variants A & B. This is not an exhaustive list of disorders and dissociative experiences, but an overview of dissociation in the context of mental disorders.

Due to this complexity, dissociation is an increasingly hard to categorize phenomena. For more on this, look no further than part 2.

Categories
Guest posts

Guest post at Central Bylines

Wowee, really excited to announce the first of my two-part series ‘billionaire hoarders’ has just been posted at CentralBylines. Take a look!

I would like to say a huge thank you to the team at CentralBylines for their help and support! It’s been a blast!

For more, honest, truthful and independent reporting look no further than CentralBylines!

Categories
Well-Being

Going back to normal – tips for social anxiety

For many of us the return to normality is an exciting prospect, but it also conjures up a mix of emotions. For many of us, lockdown has felt like an unending slog – nothing to do nothing to say.

The opportunity to go back to the pub, to wine and dine with our friends is an exciting prospect. But for many of us, while lockdown has been isolating and depressing, it has also offered us the opportunity to indulge the avoidance side of our anxiety.

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

For those with social anxiety there is a constant nagging desire to avoid situations that provoke our anxieties. Whether it be showing up to lectures, public speaking or something entirely different we always want to avoid the things that stress us out. Lockdown posed a unique situation in which we suddenly had all our triggers removed.

For a year now we’ve lived without the worries of our day to day life intruding as it used to. Yet now, with the UK opening back up many of us are facing a sudden and potentially uncomfortable reintroduction to life as it was before.

If you share this preoccupation with the anxiety of returning to life as we know it here are a few tips for if your anxieties makes an appearance.

1. Breathe

I always hate to see this ‘tip’, as it always seems like the most obvious thing. Mental health staff and resources love to say ‘take long deep breaths’ when you feel anxious. This may help. But what’s better is to focus on maintaining a full and relaxed cycle of breathing to reduce chances of anxiety taking hold.

2. Grounding techniques

If you feel your anxiety building up, try and engage in grounding techniques. Grounding refers to techniques you can use to distract yourself from your anxieties and prevent the cycle from reaching a full blown panic attack.

The details on grounding techniques can be found here. You can try apps for grounding or even name things you can see in the room. The point of these exercises are to show you that you can choose to divorce yourself from the wave of anxiety and focus on something else. Repeated use of these techniques can help ‘prove’ this to yourself and thus improve its effectiveness.

3. Tell a friend

If you’re going out with friends, talk to them about how you feel. If something in particular is worrying you about your plans, tell them if you can.

When I was anxious I would feel incredibly nauseous and developed a phobia of being sick in public. Naturally whenever I went somewhere it was the only thing on my mind, making the symptoms even worse.

Speaking to a friend made me relax, knowing they knew what was going on and that they understood if I needed to step outside or leave helped relieve my anxieties.

Which leads me onto the fourth tip.

4. Plan your escape route

It may sound dramatic, but often just knowing how to escape a stressful situation can make it more barrable.

When I felt anxious in lectures, I often got caught up in worries about how to leave without people noticing. This obsession of course led me straight to feeling anxious.

However, if you have a way of getting out of the situation that you have rationalised and know is safe, it can act as a comfort. I tried letting my lecturers know I may need to step out on occasions.

This can act as a comfort blanket, resulting in a reduction in overall anxiety.

5. Don’t go into situations expectant

In my experience, I often felt anxious when I went into a situation with high expectations and a high desire to control things.

In my head things ‘had’ to go to plan, i.e., I shouldn’t feel anxious and if I did that was the worst thing ever.

What’s more, I would go into situations telling myself I ‘had’ to be the most confident or sociable I could be, and if I didn’t live up to this I had failed.

The desire for control set me up to fail each time. Wanting to control everything and live up to my own standards made me hyper aware of how I wasn’t living up to these standards. Making me anxious about being anxious.

It’s better to be realistic. Socializing is not life or death. You can leave if you feel anxious, you do not need to live up to any standards – socializing is meant to be fun.

Paradoxical as it may sound, try to go into situations acceptant that things may not go to plan and they may go even better than if you try to make everything go perfectly to your pre-imagined idea of how it ‘should’ go.

Take it easy

Most importantly, try to enjoy this new freedom. Try not to be tough on yourself.

Rather than focusing on what you ‘should’ or ‘must’ do, try to think in terms of what you would like or prefer.

For more tips, look no further!

Categories
UK Politics

7 takeaways from UK Racial Inequality Report

For the purpose of clarity I will state right off the bat this article is an overview and response to Prof Johnathon Portes own response to the UKs Racial Inequality report better known as, the Sewell Commission.

The article by Portes was featured in The Byline Times and can be found here using the link below.

From here on is my humble summary of Portes’ article, providing you with the key issues he raises. Though, I strongly recommend reading the article for yourself as he is the true expert here.

1. The author..

Portes once worked as chief economist at the department of Work & Pensions. He currently holds a place as Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the School of Politics and Economics at King’s College London. So he knows a thing or two about policy, academia and putting together a research project.

2. Racial inequalities in the UK

Portes’ position is clear, the UK does have a considerable issue with institutionalised racism. Research he carried out as chief econimist at the dpmt for W&P showed a considerable racial bias against non-white appearing applicants to jobs. Just one of the many ways that the UK IS institutionally racist.

What’s more, nearly all research evidence since Portes’ investigation has found significantly poorer outcomes for racial/ethnic minority individuals.

From this body of evidence, the writing is on the wall when it comes to the UK’s racism.

3. Placating to the ill-informed masses

As Portes outlines the response to the report were…mixed. Right-wing mouthpiece Matthew Goodwin was outlined by Portes as ‘being left high and dry’ by writer of the report Samir Shah when he announced Britain’s institutions were racism free.

This comes as no surprise as the right have long awaited a report such as this to confirm what they always wanted to hear. What’s shocking, or at least amusing, is to see the very writers of the report quashing the assumptions that the bias and twisted report leads its readers to believe.

4. You can’t see much with your head buried in the sand

Portes calls out a number of dodgy and underhanded research techniques used by the report in its efforts to skew and twist the undesired truth.

Methodologically, the report breaks down poorer outcomes for racial/ethnic minority groups into ‘explained’ and ‘unexplained’ categories. The first, includes other grouping variables such as gender, socio economic background etc. The second puts these outcomes down as a mystery. Using this lens to view data, one cannot possibly find evidence for racism. As it skirts around the concept entirely.

Yet, as Portes outlines, one cannot just remove the word ‘racism’ from the report and remove all evidence of racial inequality within society and the data in question.

To get around this issue, the report used some dodgy statistics techniques. Anyone that has been taught statistics in the social sciences has been well versed on what to do and what not to do when it comes to ensuring data is not bias or misleading. Yet this report throws that rule book out of the window and uses any method it likes to erase the concept of racism.

As Portes states, using such techniques makes it impossible to find any evidence for racial inequality as by their own efforts all trace is removed, renamed or obscured.

5. Response from the experts

Portes is not alone in his outrage, those within and outside academia and research share his distain for the report.

Though it is important to acknowledge, and Portes makes a point of mentioning this, that there is a vast amount of experts condemning this report for it’s dodgy methods and even more dodgy morals.

6. Why is it so dodgy?

The sheer dodgyiness of the report is put down to an attempt to stem the unwanted tide of ‘woke’ voices in 2021. The uptake in so-called ‘wokeism’ is something the Torys need like they need a knife to the gut. The simplest solution of course is to remove objectivity and honesty from the equation and get reports written that support your position, ‘no there’s no problem here’.

7. My thoughts

From Portes critique it’s clear that when this report was undertaken the question was not ‘is Britain institutionally racist’, or ‘how institutionally racist is the UK?’. The question was, ‘how can we hide any trace of racism?’. This sweep-under-the-rug technique is straight out of the Tory handbook.

They removed the word racism from the equation and then claimed that no trace of racism could be found. What we need is a new report. A truly independent report. And what we need most of all is action!

Action to acknowledge and address the racial inequalities across the UK, the time for ignoring this issue is over.

Categories
Guest posts

Guest post at WomenBeing Magazine

Excited to announce my second guest post at WomenBeing magazine! The post ‘Darwin, Come Dine With Me, Orgasms and more! – An historical overview’ looks at the gender differences in violence in relation to evolutionary Psychological theory.

WomenBeing is a fantastic outlet creating important content, so take a look at their other posts and more!

Categories
Queer Community

The objectification of the straight man

An open letter to gay men

To all the gay men out there, it’s time we had a chat. It’s time to stop objectifying straight men, it’s not cute and it’s not okay.

Within the gay community, instances of falling for straight men has become something of a cliché. It’s almost become a running gag within pop culture. A key example of this is one of token gays (Lee McDermott, played by Kevin Rahm) in Desperate Housewives being known as the ‘flipper’ for ‘turning’ straight men gay. Or even, the ‘pit crew’ in Ru Pauls Drag Race being the object of desire because of their particularly masculine appearance. An appearance more associated with heterosexuality.

Where has this obsession with ‘turning’ straight men come from and why is it problematic?

Its insulting and kind of creepy

The whole concept is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, the whole notion of ‘turning’ someone is frankly insulting. LGBTQIA+ people have stated for decades that sexuality and gender identity are not switches that can be turned on or off. It’s not a choice. So the awareness of sexuality being ingrained in an individual exists within the community but is ignored.

The concept of ‘turning’ someone removes all autonomy from the individual and diminishes their sexuality to something that can be controlled by gay men. Which is frankly absurd.

What’s more, this whole idea of turning someone’s sexuality to suit your preferences is insulting. It erases heterosexuality as a true or legitimate identity, and suggests all men are somehow secretly closeted, awaiting their dream man to f**k them into realising they’re gay. From a community that advocates for people to live their truth it seems awfully hypocritical to assume someone that identifies as heterosexual is any way less in touch with their sexuality than they are.

This whole enterprise is underscored by this unsettling feeling regarding the target being either a naïve or unwilling passenger throughout the whole. It makes me uncomfortable as it’s accompanied by a certain peacock-ery and pride. To have ‘turned’ someone is almost worn as a badge of honour.

The uncomfortable truth is, it’s more predatory than it is prideful.

It’s not cute, it’s verging of predatory

I’ll make an assumption that, like me, many gay men have an awful lot of female friends. The most lovely friendships exist between women and the gays. A strictly platonic understanding makes it a safe place for both to exist freely.

In doing so I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of horror stories about dodgy men ignoring women’s wishes and disrespecting their rights as part of their sexual conquest. We understand this is wrong, yet when it comes to straight men we perpetuate it ourselves.

Such behaviour not only makes men uncomfortable but it also does direct harm to the community at large. Reinforcing an already toxic belief that all gay men want to f*ck every straight man they meet. This obsession with heterosexuality is so puzzling, where does it come from?

Internalized homophobia

Internalized homophobia refers to the way LGBTQIA+ people absorb homophobic and heterosexist beliefs about themselves and others. This internalized self-loathing has been cited as a key contributor to the obsession with heterosexual or masculine traits within the LGBTQIA+ community.

This is often coupled with a particular distain for those that present as more typically feminine with masculine gays viewed as somehow ‘superior’. This is seen in the awful ‘masc4masc’ trend and all related dodgy attitudes associated with it. It also explains the deep rooted preference for heterosexual men and heterosexual-like/masculine men.

This preference certainly plays an integral role in this obsession with straight men as well as the distain for ‘fem gays’. When in reality its an expression of the very homophobia we as a community have been fighting so hard to end.

The grey area

Of course there’s a grey area. Being attracted to masculinity or men is literally the key principle of gay attraction. So of course there is a grey area where you may be attracted to someone and be unsure of their sexuality or even if they return your feelings. What’s more, some straight men are fine with a jokey flirtation. That doesn’t mean they want to f**k you.

Stay mindful of their boundaries and rights. Don’t force your attraction onto someone that is visibly uninterested, regardless of their sexual orientation. They’re not secretly gay just because you want them to be.

If they keep maintaining that they’re straight, it’s probably time to put a pin in your heterosexual fantasy and go.

Final thoughts, take-home message

The temptation to sexualise and fetishize straight men is apparently too much to handle for many of us. I can admit I’m guilty of it in some form over the years. And a friendly joke or flirtation with someone who’s open to it isn’t a crime.

Just don’t cross the line. Don’t lose sight of their rights not to match your energy or respond to your advances. It’s not cute, it’s creepy.

Good luck out there.

Categories
UK Politics

BREXIT a modern day Icarus story

Pride is a dangerous thing. When does pride become vanity? The ego is a driving force behind many of the best and worst landmark events throughout history.

Integral to self-belief, a strong sense of self and a little ego can go a long way. Yet, history is littered with a comedy of errors where people fall flat on their face due to an overestimation of their abilities driven in no small part by an overactive ego. As the saying goes, pride comes before a fall.

The infamous story of Icarus perfectly illustrates this very theme. The overconfidence in ones abilities, the overestimation of ones success are all too often what brings about ones downfall.

Now you may wonder, what does this have to do with Brexit? Or – more likely – you can infer exactly what point I’m driving at.

Brexit is the Icarus of modern times.

“Brexit is the Icarus of modern times”

Damaged pride on behalf of the British since the fall of its empire has left us with a sour taste in our mouth when it comes to global politics. We’ve got the ego of a superpower without the power to match.

Photo by Josiah Lewis on Pexels.com

This culturewide inflated ego was begging to be manipulated by the bias mass media – owned by renowned conservative, Rupert Murdock. This led to an unofficial coup by the Tory government and it’s corrupt media to highjack the narrative and decide the EU was an all bad, all corrupt threat to our way of life.

Yet I ask you, when we parted ways with the EU, who received more power? Ourselves? Or our government?

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Ever since we left the EU in a rushed through deal there have been no end of problems for people across Britain. The deal itself was in fact poorer deal than what we previously had inside the EU and even worse than the deal Theresa May proposed during her time as PM. This deal has made trade with the EU near impossible with endless paperwork. This deal has seen an end to British fishing as we know it, with many no longer being financially viable. This deal sees an end to travel, an end to studying abroad in Europe. And yes, as surprised as many of our British ‘Ex-pats’ in Spain were, this end to freedom of movement works both ways. So pack your bags, grit your teeth and make your way back to Blighty.

“pack your bags, grit your teeth and make your way back to Blighty”

Now many of you may still wonder, how did we end up here? In an all too apparently weaker position than we were before.

The answer: pride. We let ourselves get carried away with delusions of grandeur and lost sense of reality. We’re a weaker country out alone trying to reclaim an empire that has long since been dead. We didn’t want to believe it, we preferred the fantasy. It suited our self image, our ego and our pride far more than the reality, and now we’re paying the price.

Britain is a modern day Icarus story. A lesson to others in what happens when you fly too close to the sun. Or more aptly, believe what you read in The Sun.

Categories
Well-Being

Pandemic Fatigue

Nothing to do, nothing to say – advice for maintaining relationships online

If you’re anything like me, you’re still in shock that you’re living amidst a pandemic. This is the sort of thing you might watch a movie about, probably not a great movie but one you could throw on when you have friends over. But to live it each day, it’s a lot more…meh…than I would have imagined.

Don’t get me wrong multiple parts of the pandemic are truly awful, and it’s been a rough ride for many of us, particularly for those who have lost loved ones or faced eviction from their homes. To all of which I offer my sincere sympathies. Yet, a certain aspect of the pandemic that is perhaps more trivial has really caught my eye.

The beginning of the pandemic saw a huge uptake in video calls. Of course, we all were aware of Facetime and Skype and for those of us in my school year I’m sure you remember such classics as MSN video chat. Yet suddenly, about a week into lockdown everyone and their dog were on group zoom calls making efforts to get in contact with everyone they knew amidst the panic of the first lockdown and the solitude it would impose on so many of us. But that was then, now it seems we’ve moved into another phase of the pandemic. No more zoom quizzes and family get togethers posted all over people’s stories, no, in this phase we have entered a form of social etiquette seen between an infant and caregiver.

Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels

Mutual reciprocity – late-stage pandemic etiquette

Has anyone else noticed they’ve gone from contacting their friends and family frequently to now barely speaking. Maybe you have some empty chit chat throughout the day with a close friend but generally, its an empty void. Nothing to do, nothing to say. Conversations are repetitive and dry. One rule has emerged, conversations about the pandemic are off limits. I’m terming this ‘pandemic fatigue’. After a year since the first UK lockdown, it seems nobody wants to talk about it anymore. But how do you know when is safe to discuss it and when are your nearest and dearest not in the mood?

This new relationship between one and their social circle has become oddly similar to that of ‘mutual reciprocity’. Renowned researcher in developmental Psychology John Bowlby put forward the case for this reciprocity as a core mutual interaction that occurs between infants and mothers. What this concept suggests is that a mother – or more appropriately – a caregiver enter into states of reciprocity with their child. This can be initiated by either infant or caregiver and during these stages learning and bonding occurs via facial expressions and mimicry of one another. Surely, we’ve all seen it, a baby smiles at you and you smile back and suddenly you’ve been fawning over this baby for 15 minutes. The key link to socializing in month 12 of the pandemic is the momentary and fleeting nature of these interactions and there almost spontaneous occurrence. For those of us experiencing a complete lack of social skills, spotting when is the right and wrong moment to try and discuss the P-word can prove tricky.

Dealing with ‘pandemic reciprocity’ – tips for going it alone

During moments of ‘pandemic reciprocity’ your stars align, and you and your co-conversationalist find yourselves in the mood to talk about the dreaded pandemic. These times occur when one or more of you give the indication that you’d like to discuss it. After an undecided amount of time the conversation is signalled to be over by the presentation of the statement, ‘it’s fine, it’ll be alright eventually…’. At which point the reciprocal state is ended and conversation reverts back to the safe small talk and slow replies.

Now, these moments can be rewarding and fun but fundamentally they’re the exception and not the rule. The rest of the time, we can find ourselves either wanting more from our friends or our friends want more from us than we have the energy for. Below are some tips for coping, managing your expectations and enjoying these fleeting moments.

  1. Stay mindful – remember that you and your friends and family are likely on different schedules, with different needs weighing on them. You can’t always get the level of attention you crave at any time like you could pre-pandemic. It might suck but it’s an unfortunate fact of life. Try and remember this next time you don’t get the response you hoped for.
  • The same is true for yourself, don’t be hard on yourself when your friends want more than you can give. You’re allowed to be busy, you’re allowed to not be in the mood. You’re entitled to your own privacy and your own space.
  • Bring something to the table – It may feel somewhat false or rehearsed to plan ahead for a conversation with a friend but having something in mind can be helpful when living the same day over and over. Particularly, reminiscing on the ‘good times’ can have psychological benefits for the both of you. Try and focus on the good times you’ve had without being drawn toward the negative fact that you cannot meet up any longer.
  • Only good may enter – Try not to want too much from others. That may be hard, harder now than ever, but doing so can worsen your mood and day-to-day experiences. Reaching out to a friend can provide a warm nostalgic feeling, a comfort blanket of sorts. Yet, if they’re feeling particularly pandemic-fatigued or not in the mood, this feeling of dashed hopes for discussion or catch up can leave you feeling down. Do your best to reach out to your loved ones with a pinch of salt. If they’re not in the mood, don’t let it phase you. Treat it like water off a duck’s back. Prepare yourself for enjoyment with negative feelings of dejection or being let down wash away.
  • Be your own boss – This tip involves taking the place of the social bonds you’re missing. Many of us are missing the social contact we once took for granted, with many realising this contact tied into our very self-image and is integral to how we view ourselves. With this gone many are feeling at a loss, struggling to define themselves now they’re in almost complete isolation. If this sounds familiar, try to tackle this by taking the place that this social interaction once took. Ask yourself, what you think about certain things, and in time you’ll realise you still have all the opinions and feelings you always had. You do not need others to teach you who you are, you need only consult with yourself.
  • Manage expectations – A tricky one but this tip offers great benefits. Consider what it is you hope to gain from interactions with others. Is it realistic? Is it helpful? The pandemic has shaken things up, so perhaps take it as an opportunity to rethink your relationships with others. If you’re seeking approval from others, ask yourself why? You have the ability to be as independent and self-fulfilling as anyone else. Once you see you may be hoping for too much from others it may be time to look inside and consider what it is, you’re missing and what you can do to achieve this.
  • Journal or diary – Yes, I know you’re tired of being asked to start a diary. Wherever you look on the internet there’s always some tired blogger running on coffee alone telling the world they *need* to start a diary. Sadly, I am one of them – though I’m more of a green tea fan myself. A journal or diary can really help you keep track of what’s going on around you, it’s easy to feel cut off or almost floating in a void of nothing. A journal allows you to look back and look ahead, grounding you in reality. Think of it as an exercise in testing out these tips, record how they work out for you and see if you think they’d benefit you in the long term. Just give it a try!
Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Give these tips a try and see if they help you get more out of the limited interaction available this far into the pandemic.

Good luck out there!

Categories
Well-Being

Disabled Students Allowance – what you need to know

‘Disabled Students Allowance – mental health review’

What is it?

The Disabled Students Allowance is set up to provide support for students with recognised disabilities. The services, products and support provided as part of a DSA are unlike other government funded financial aid such as those given by Student Finance England (SFE) as these are free to the recipient and do not constitute a loan and are not repayable.

Who is eligible?

Anyone with a recognised disability is eligible. This includes various physical disabilities as well as mental health related disabilities. As the latter is what I received support for, this is what my experience centres around.

Eligibility is based on medical evidence provided by the applicant, usually the form of doctors note or records. The cost of which must be provided by the applicant, for which you are not reimbursed. This can cost from £10-£20 depending on the complexity of your case, but once you’ve received the note it can be used on multiple occasions as they require only a copy.

The only caveat is that you must speak with your doctor prior to applying for a DSA to ensure that your notes reflect the issues you wish to get support for. If not, your note may not evidence the full extent of your disability. Furthermore, it may not provide sufficient information to grant your application. It can be a pain with long waiting times for GPs but it’s an unfortunate necessity.

Mental health conditions?

As stated, my experience of the process is that of a student with mental health conditions, for which a variety of options are available after an initial consultation with a registered assessor.

Initial application process

The application can seem daunting at first but do not let it dissuade you! On the DSA website you can download an application booklet to fill out and apply. It looks full on, but the majority of the sections can be skipped, and the bulk of the booklet will be left blank!

It was during my consultation with my university that led me to apply for a DSA as they were familiar with the application documents so managed to put my mind at ease when it came to filling it out. So, it is well worth checking in with your university’s team!

Evidence

As previously mentioned, along with the application you must submit your evidence. It is important that you check ahead of time that the GP or evidence source is fully aware of your disability and that this is reflected in your evidence. The DSA team need to see a consistency between what you describe and what your evidence outlines. But don’t stress you can speak about this with your GP before you apply for the doctors note and ensure that the correct details are in your doctors records. Additionally, if your evidence doesn’t quite outline things the way you would prefer, you are able to request edits to the note within the first few days of it being submitted to you. Though this may differ at the discretion of differing general practices.

The next stage – needs assessment

After submitting your evidence and your application has presumably been accepted you will be contacted to initiate the next stage of the process. Note, the burden is on you to chase up this correspondence and organise it. You will be sent a confirmation letter and a link to the site in which you can register for the next stage.

This stage is the specific assessment of your needs. You must book yourself in for a session with one of these centres, the cost of which is covered by your DSA and you do not need to fund this yourself at all. Mine took place via Zoom due to covid regulations but usually they take place in person, so it is prudent to choose an assessment centre nearby!

This assessment took roughly an hour and was with a very helpful staff member – though due to various centres the standard and approach may vary between them! The key aim of this session is to assess the ways in which your disability can negatively impact on your studies and how this can be helped.

This means that the support available will vary greatly based on two key factors, your disability and the particular course you’re on. For me, short term memory and reading was a key difficulty, and I was provided with software to help with these factors. It’s advisable to check the assessor is aware of the fundamental aspects of your disability and the key requirements of your course. It is worth coming prepared with important aspects noted down to ensure you do not forget anything important.

What support you could get

From what I can tell the support for mental health conditions is split into 3 categories.

  • The first is software. Different programmes are paid for and provided as part of a DSA. It must be agreed that each programme would help in an area that your disability disadvantages you Vs. a typical student without this disability.
  • The second is hardware. As part of a DSA you may be provided with additional hardware such as a new laptop or microphone/headphones. For me this was due to my current laptop being too slow to operate the software I required. There is a £200 non-refunded fee the applicant must pay towards the laptop. It can be delivered to your door with programmes fully installed.
  • The third and final is tutoring. This comes in two forms, tutoring for programmes and technology provided to ensure the applicant can use the software to the best of its potential. The other is personal academic tutoring. Weekly sessions provided to help applicants stay on track throughout their course. All of which are funded by the DSA.

Accessing equipment with DSA letter

Roughly 10 working days after your assessment your final DSA confirmation letter will be sent out to you and your university. This provides you with a full rundown of what you will be provided with along with the costs for each item. This letter will also have the contact information for suppliers you need to access your equipment. This letter should be sent to these companies as evidence for your DSA after which they will place your order.

Overview

All in all, it’s a great option for those that feel their mental health negatively impacts upon your performance. Here are my final thoughts:

Pros:

  • Tailored to your needs – assessments allow you a good amount of time to discuss your issues and how the DSA could help mediate or resolve them.
  • Once evidence is provided it feels more relaxed and you are no longer having to ‘prove’ the impacts of your disability. It felt like my assessor was really on my side.
  • Non-repayable – Other than a £200 upfront fee for a laptop, you do not have to pay back any of the money used to fund the DSA.
  • Helpful assessors – the assessor I had was helpful and wanted to see me get the best outcome possible.
  • Training – this training also allows you to get the best out of the software or hardware provided. Taking place over Zoom.
  • Pretty straight forward – It does take a little while and can seem like a chore but overall, it’s pretty easy to access and understand what’s happening during the process. If I can do it, anyone can.

Cons:

  • You must do a fair bit of form filling and booking etc. But it isn’t as much as it seems at first.
  • Must do a lot yourself – like the point above, the burden is on you to book your assessment centre, order your equipment by citing the DSA letter etc. All of which can seem like a lot to worry about if you already suffer from anxiety or depression. My only advice is to focus on how it is worth it in the end.
  • Long lead times – the process is relatively quick but with so many components involved it can take some time (checking with your GP, application, providing evidence, booking assessment, waiting for assessment to be filed, waiting for DSA confirmation letter, ordering, and waiting for equipment, starting training etc.) Realistically it will take some weeks to complete the entire process, so it’s best to apply sooner rather than later particularly if you need the support ASAP.
  • Still up to you – obviously, this is no magic fix for your condition(s), the work still needs to be done and deadlines may still cause you stress and anxiety. However, the support should help counteract some of this.
  • Not covering breakages – the DSA receipt/confirmation letter states that the equipment is not covered for breakages or replacements so keep your equipment in good working order. Better yet invest in preventative measures such as a protective case. Additionally, you can insure your device(s) using student friendly tech insurers.
  • Upfront costs – while the majority of the DSA is totally free a £200 upfront fee is required if you need a new laptop. This is steep for most people, but it is fairly cheap compared to the overall DSA costs. You can seek support by applying for grants. Some universities also do offer a refund procedure for this, so it is worth checking with your disability or well-being team.

Overall, it is a helpful service that offers a lot of tangible support as well as providing the feeling that you have got back some control over your life. I know I felt in a kind of, freefall, for a while but now knowing I have put the effort in to take steps to help myself I feel more secure in what I can do.

Categories
UK Politics

Classism and White Privilege

Classism & White Privilege

We must take responsibility for racism and view it as an insult to us all, and a stain on our society, just as discrimination based on class is an insult to all.

A concept central to BLM ‘debate’ is that of ‘White Privilege’. Referring to the socio-cultural advantage white people have over black people. Countless researchers have concluded that colour of one’s skin instantly acts as a signifier of their ‘otherness’. White privilege argues that white individuals do not have this signifier of otherness attached to their identity and are not held back by people’s racist views attached to this. By extension white individuals do not have this label and are therefor treated differently, and by enlarge, are privileged by this fact.

Yet, some white people find this sentiment insulting, and believe it erases their lived experiences. Classism is still alive and well in Britain, with many communities – particularly in the North – being hit hard by Tory austerity. The result of which has placed individuals, largely younger people, at a distinctive disadvantage due to their class. For some, concept of white privilege is perceived as an insult to their struggle.

My response to this is that these issues do not exist in isolation. And do not need to be placed in a hierarchy, they are complex and interlinked. They are the product of outdated social systems.

What’s important to remember is that individuals from BAME backgrounds also exist in a classist structure. The same disadvantages associated with class background also apply to BAME individuals with many living in lower social class groups due to institutionalized racism.

‘White privilege’ does not mean that all white people are wealthy or blessed with money and opportunities. Many white people experience severe poverty and lack of opportunities in the UK. All white privilege means is that the colour of your skin does not influence this. This comes from classism within the UK which is largely upheld by other wealthy white people.

What’s more, class background can and does negatively influence BAME communities on top of the negative impact of their race or ethnicity. So BAME individuals experience a lack of opportunities because of their class/background but on top of this face even more discrimination on the basis of the colour of their skin. A factor that does not influence the chances of white people when they apply for a job or go to school.

Unfair advantages to BAME individuals or sticking plaster attempt to achieve equality?

Another key element of the argument for ways in which BAME individuals are at an advantage compared to lower/working class white individuals is the existence of race or ethnicity based graduate, scholarship, workplace schemes. Proponents of this argument state that such programmes offer an unfair advantage to the BAME recipients. However, I must take issue with this for the following 3 reasons:

  1. This is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound of racial inequality. The number of these schemes are near to non-existent on the grand scheme of things. They are rare and must be fought for being highly competitive. They are not the reason you, a white person, didn’t get the job or scholarship you wanted.
  2. These schemes provide valuable opportunities for people that would otherwise be far less likely to succeed due to racial stigma being stacked against them. They do not offer an unfair advantage but an opportunity to reset the balance and level the playing field for already disadvantaged individuals.
  3. These schemes breed diversity. This is a valuable commodity, diversity in the workplace and education has been shown to breed positive change and often promote initiatives that help and support others that are disadvantaged by their background – including class background which negatively effects white individuals across the UK and world at large.

Final thoughts – more in common than you wish to believe

Its’s vital to consider that we have more in common than the wealthy elite would have us believe. You do not need to view racism and classism as an either/or scenario. Both issues need to be resolved. Individuals struggling due to either or both of these issues are deserving of support. The idea that BAME communities are looking for special treatment or are somehow responsible for your lack of opportunities is as tired a falsehood as ‘the immigrant stole my job’. These ideas that other social groups are responsible for your hardship is a tired old divisive technique used by governments and ruling classes to divide us and keep us fighting amongst ourselves.

To support BAME individuals is to support oneself, together we can and should work together to improve the lived experiences of us all. We are all deserving of a quality, happy and equitable existence for the short time we’re here.

Don’t think of it as us and them, but us all together against the outdated and unfair social system that still favours the superrich and super greedy.