For Mental Health Awareness Day, we took the opportunity to speak to alumnus Tom Synnott about his time at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), opening up about mental health issues and support. Arriving at DMU in October 2011 to study History, Tom had recently been diagnosed with Autism and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Discussing his arrival at DMU, he said: "I struggled to make the grades to get to university, making my way through school with no real support for my conditions. I didn't initially apply to DMU but I was offered a place through clearing and when I saw the course content I was sold. I wasn't expecting to last out a week at university, but accepting a place turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I successfully graduated with a 2:1 in 2014, through no small part due to the help I received from the DSA, NAS and of course the amazing staff at DMU.
"My first contact with the disabilities team actually came in the summer before I started, I had the chance to meet with staff who advised me on how to prepare for university and assured me that they would be able to help with any issues that arose during my studies. It was tremendously reassuring to know that there was so much support on offer, and they not only delivered on that promise, but went above and beyond to help me achieve my best.
"University gave me the courage to do things I'd never dreamt of prior to going. At the beginning of my second year, I was interviewed by the BBC for their programme Saints and Scroungers on BBC One about my successes in spite of adversity. Shortly afterward, I was nominated for the Student Choice Awards, and won perhaps the most prestigious awards of my life. Finally, in my third year, I successfully ran for Disabled Student Rep, and founded the DMU Disability Society.
"For people struggling with mental health, it can be easy to develop a warped sense of perspective about your accomplishments and impact. My advice to students who are struggling is to make the most of the support on offer and talk about your problems rather than keeping them bottled up.
"The unconditional understanding, welcoming and support that I received from the good people at DMU changed my life forever, and it has since become my personal mission in life to share that transforming experience with other students like myself who have disabilities and/or mental health conditions. To this end, since my graduation I have volunteered with charity after charity, including Autism Anglia and the Samaritans. For the past three years I have worked full-time in the Disabled Students Allowances sector as a Student Consultant, with the aim of becoming a DSA Assessor some day.
"Finally, for me personally, DMU is a living reminder of the best years of my life, the transformation I had from a teenager struggling with mental health to an adult with happiness and purpose, and hope for the future. This is why I hope to always stay connected as part of an alumni community."
Posted on Friday 25th October 2019