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Category Archives: Exec

Mental Health Week: A student’s experience with depression

To anyone else I look like a completely normal Hatfield student. I love Klute, going out, meeting up with friends, Sunday brunch. On first look you would have no idea that I am also depressed. That’s the problem with depression; you become so good at pretending you’re ok that you really can convince other people. When you conjure up an idea of a ‘depressed’ person, people too often imagine some gloomy person dressed all in black wearing too much eyeliner and constantly complaining. The truth is that anyone can be depressed, around 7% of adults have depression, the likelihood is that someone you know has depression and you have no idea. The symptoms of depression are sadly too often missed, especially at university, and in my case in first year when there were very few people looking out for me.

I have had depressive episodes from the age of 7. This is something that when I tell people they find very confusing. What could a 7 year old have to be so upset about that they are seriously depressed? The answer for me was nothing specific. That answer has never changed throughout my 13 year journey with depression. What could happen to someone that was so awful that they regularly hope to no longer exist? Especially as I got older it became a vicious cycle of feeling guilty about having such a charmed life (one that led me to Hatfield) and being depressed and feeling guilty about being depressed because there were so many people with tough lives who didn’t have depression. I decided I must just be weak and worthless. It was with the help of my incredible mother who has also struggled with depression all her life that I realised you don’t have to have a reason. It’s ok to be depressed. It’s not something you should ever feel guilty about. You have every right to your feelings.

Depression was something I had managed fairly well up until leaving school. I was surrounded by an incredibly supportive family who really did not treat having depression as anything different to having a broken leg. It was when I started at university that everything began to collapse. I knew the warning signs of a depressive episode, I knew I was spiralling, but unfortunately not enough other people did to help me. So many of the early symptoms of depression are behaviours that are sadly completely normalised at university. I’ve made a little list of some of the things to look out for in your friends, in the boy you don’t really speak to on your corridor, in the friend of a friend you smile at in the dining room, everyone.

  1. Staying in bed – spending all day in bed is one of the immediate images that comes up when you think of a student. It’s important to notice when a couple of lie-ins turns in to a person’s daily routine. At my worst I would only leave my bed for the occasional lecture, if I could muster the energy at all. I would lie in bed and desperately try to tune out the rest of the world. If you’re worried one of your friends is spending too much time in bed, how about suggesting you go to breakfast together or head off to the library together in the morning?
  2. Drinking too much – most students at university enjoy a drink, a lot of socialising centres around alcohol. But when does too much become too much? My drinking suddenly escalated massively at one point in the year, I was branded a ‘drinking legend’ and a ‘sesh head’, when really I was just desperate to forget my depression for a while. This was probably my rock-bottom place, I was drinking completely recklessly on nights out and alone in my room in between. I ended up doing serious damage to my liver to the point where more than a year on it still hasn’t recovered and probably never will. I couldn’t drink at all for several months, where I was called ‘boring’ and was increasingly excluded from social events. Please stop calling your friends boring for not drinking and definitely be very careful encouraging people to drink who might be going through a tough time. You don’t know what bad habits they might already be in without your help. They might view nights out as one of the only times they get to socialise, how about suggesting going for a meal or watching a film together another night as well?
  3. Withdrawing from social situations – if someone’s pattern of socialisation rapidly changes this could be an indication of something being seriously wrong. The situations that I avoided seem almost laughable now but were seriously debilitating. Waiting until the early hours of the morning to shower so you’d be certain no one saw you in the corridor, avoiding going to pick up a package from the Porter’s lodge for days in case you saw someone you knew, being terrified of keeping anything in the kitchen in case someone asked you how you were. It got so bad that I once went 6 days without speaking to anyone at all. People with depression usually do everything they physically can to pretend to other people that they don’t have it. If they don’t feel strong enough to pretend, they withdraw. If you have noticed someone not being around, pester them, go to their room and just ask for a chat, invite them to do anything with you. To the girl on my corridor who noticed I was spending a lot of time in my room and came for chats, thank you, you kept me sane.
  4. A change in eating behaviour – ‘I’m not hungry’, ‘I don’t fancy the look of dinner’. This is a particular challenge for livers in. Meals can be a really difficult thing for someone who has withdrawn. Make sure they’re eating; invite them to go with you to a meal or even just offering to make them some toast can be the highlight of their day.

I am here a year on from my worst depressive episode yet. I have found a medication, which works for me and helps me through some of my tough mornings. My best advice for if you have depression or think you could be depressed is to TALK ABOUT IT. Talk to anyone and everyone who you trust and will listen to you. You’ll be amazed how amazing and supportive people can be. Find a GP who you feel understands you, depression is a serious illness and there is so much out there to help you. If you had a broken arm you wouldn’t just ‘deal with it’ or ‘wait for it to pass’. Explore every avenue of care you can; whether that’s finding a new hobby you love, talking to friends, talking to Welfare, the University Counselling service, therapy, medication or a combination. You’re worth it and you’re going to be ok.

 

 

SHAG week – LGBTQ+ Sex: Myths and Truths

SHAG week – LGBTQ+ Sex

Sadly, sexual health awareness weeks often leave out queer people. Of course, some of the information we will be providing generally will apply too, yet I think it’s also important to give some more specific LGBTQ+ advice. Firstly, breaking some myths…

Gay men only get HIV.

Truth: HIV is the most common STI amongst gay males. This does not mean it is the only one, or that only men who sleep with men are at risk for contracting HIV. Gay men are susceptible to almost all STIs. In fact, in 2015 70% of new cases of gonorrhoea occurred in gay men.

Myth: Queer women don’t get STDs and so don’t need to use protection.

Truth: Yes, they can. Some infections may even be more likely to transmit from person to person if the individuals are engaging in non-heterosexual sex. STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea that are usually passed through penetrative penis-vagina sex, can also be passed through toys, fingers, hands and oral sex. Think about using dental dams, which are provided by the College welfare team and by LGBT+a welfare (Molly Smith), and if you could be using condoms to practice safe sex even when they are not required as a birth control method. More info on dental dams to follow.

 

You can share toys without risk.

If you must share toys, put a condom over them. Remove and replace whenever someone new is using the toy. Do the same for a strap-on, or a packer if you are trans.

 

Spit/ Vaseline/ butter etc. work as lube.

No matter what you see in porn, this is not true (Hey, since when could we ever trust porn!) Spit dries too quickly and increases the chance of the condom tearing.

‘Homemade lubes’ like Vaseline or butter are oil-based and so can break latex condoms and cause irritation.

 

In male-male sex, I only need to apply lube once.

Actually, if the sex lasts a long time you should really apply more lube. ‘Too much’ lube is always better than not enough lube, to avoid pain and increase pleasure.

You will always know if you have an STD.

Definitely false. STIs/ STDs are often asymptomatic. However, they can cause problems in the future and can still be passed on to sexual partners even if you experience no symptoms. HIV is an infection that may not originally present symptoms, or may just appear like a flu. Regular checkups are therefore important, and don’t feel bad for wasting doctor’s time – they are there to prevent as well as treat!

Bisexuals/ pansexuals are sexually promiscuous.

Like straight people don’t want to sleep with everyone of the opposite gender, and gay people don’t pursue sex with everyone the same gender, those who are polysexual don’t want to bonk everyone. Sexual identity and sexual behaviour are completely unrelated. So guess what: just because someone likes two/ all genders does not mean that they necessarily want a threesome with you and your girlfriend!

Asexuals are always completely uninterested in sex.

It’s a spectrum. Some have sex, some don’t. Some masturbate, some don’t. Grey- asexuals feel that they identify with asexuality with some exceptions. Demisexuals can only experience sexual attraction after forming a strong emotional attachment to someone. Remember not to make assumptions about asexuality: it’s individual!

 

 

 

More Useful Information

Sexually Transmitted Infections

If you’ve had unprotected sex with a person of any gender, then you could be at risk of an STI. They can be transferred through close bodily contact or through the transfer of blood or semen. They can lead to serious health problems if left untreated, such as infertility and physical illness, as well as impairing your sex life (note, however, that they don’t have to stop it completely!) You can find out more information in a variety of ways:

-Through the LGBT+a society (leaflets in the office, welfare drop-ins: see their website for more details)

-The College Welfare team

-Reliable online sources such as the NHS website

 

 

Many STIs don’t show symptoms: which is why, if sexually active, you should get tested regularly at a GUM clinic.

If you find out you have an STI, being educated on how to cure it or manage its symptoms is key. It should not make you feel dirty or unconfident.

 

How to avoid STIs

 

Protection

As part of the LGBT+a welfare programme, protection can be provided. If you need something specific that is not provided (i.e. different sized/ latex- free condoms), then Molly (Welfare Officer) will try her best to order some. Protection can also be offered by our College welfare team:

Condoms

Male condoms offer the best protection against sexually transmitted diseases for both partners – but only if they’re used properly. Every condom packet has an instruction leaflet inside – take the time to read it and make sure you know how to put the condom on properly, as well as checking for the use-by date. Check for the CE mark to ensure the condoms are of a safety standard. Use a new condom every time you have sex.

 

Tips:

Make sure you get the right size: this is measured by girth not length

Store condoms away from sunlight and heat

Make sure you use lube that is safe with a condom, e.g. no oil-based lube with latex condoms.

Make sure the penis is erect before applying the condom. Squeeze the tip to remove the air before applying the condom. After sex hold the base of the condom down when removing. Dispose of the used condom in a bin not a toilet.

 

Dental dams

Despite their misleading name, dental dams are actually a form of protection (not anything to do with dentistry, although there is a story of misunderstanding involving that… Just ask Brogan!)

They are used to prevent the transmission of STIs when giving oral or anal sex to someone. It is a rectangular square of latex to provide a barrier preventing direct contact with the genitals.

You can ‘make’ your own dental dams by cutting the ends off a condom and slicing it down the middle to make your own flat square. However, they are also provided by College welfare and LGBT+a welfare.

To help them stay in place, put a small amount of lubricant between the dental dam and the genitals. This will keep it in place and increase sensitivity.

Finally, never re-use a dental dam.

 

Lube

There are two types of lube and it is important you check which one you are going to use:

Water based: Easy to wash up and safe with condoms and dental dams

Silicone based: Safe with condoms and dental dams. Waterproof. Harder to clean off but less is needed. Do NOT use with silicone- based packers or sex toys as they can break down over time.

 

Where to go if you are worried about STDs/ STIs

GUM clinics provide free testing, treatment, advice and supplies. County Durham and Darlington GUM clinics aim to be inclusive of all gender identities and sexual identities. Their services will ask questions about your sexual history in order to treat and advise you best but this information will be kept confidential.

Follow this link to find out more about local GUM clinics and how to book an appointment

https://www.cddft.nhs.uk/our-services/division-of-women,-children-and-sexual-health/sexual-health-services.aspx

 

Consent

As with all heterosexual relationships, consent must be affirmative. That is, it’s not “no means no” but “only yes means yes.” A healthy relationship is a healthy relationship no matter the sexual orientation- and consent is still very necessary.

 

See also:

http://www.durhamlgbta.org.uk/welfare/sexual-health/

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/LGBhealth/Pages/Gayandlesbianhealth.aspx

 

The Lions Network

The Lions Network is just one of many unique aspects of SHAPED.

WHAT IS IT?

The Lions Network is a collection of alumni for a number of different sectors. Their contact details are available to members of Hatfield College, meaning you can contact them with any queries you may have about either the sector itself, or how you can go about getting experience in the area.

WHAT CAREERS ARE COVERED?

Currently, the Lions cover the careers listed:

· Accountancy and Management Consulting

· Advertising Marketing and Pr

· Armed Forces and Emergency Services

· Banking, Investment and Insurance

· Business Analysis and Consultancy

· Charity and Development Work

· Creative Arts and Media

· Education and Education Management

· Engineering and Science

· Health and Veterinary Services

· Hospitality and Event Management

· Human Resources and Recruitment

· Information Technology

· Legal Services

· Manufacturing

· Politics, Government and Public Administration

· Property Management and Surveying

· Retail Sector

· Self-Employment and Small Businesses

· Sport

· Yachting and Yacht Brokers

 

This extensive list shows that there really is something for nearly everybody. Each of these career areas has at least two Lions whose details are available for contacting.

 

HOW TO USE THE LIONS NETWORK

If you want some questions answering such as whether your degree is right for your career plans, or what to include on your CV, these alumni are there to be contacted! They can give more tailored advice than any advice you can find online, and they are just an email away. All you need to do is access the Lions Network Careers List via DUO and select the career you are interested in. From here you can access specific information about each Lion as well as how best to contact them. Worried that you’ll be annoying them or wasting their time? The answer is, don’t be! They WANT to be contacted with questions in order to pass on their advice.

Follow this link and have a look for yourself:

https://duo.dur.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_52482_1&content_id=_2211791_1&mode=reset

SHAPED Blog: How to be a good intern

How to be a Good Intern

With the Easter and Summer holidays approaching, many Hatfielders will be undertaking work experience placements and internships. With this in mind, the SHAPED team have come up with a few tips to ensure that you impress and are the best intern you can be.

1. Research, Research, Research
The most important thing that you can do before starting is to research the company. It is incredibly helpful to know about the company and its history and ethos, as well as the sector itself. Knowing about current news and trends in that sector not only impresses those you will be working with, but will also make your job easier, as it will give greater context to the work you will be doing.

2. Network
Whilst it might be intimidating being the youngest in the office, it’s incredibly useful to network with those around you in order to gain a further insight into your prospective sector. From networking with your colleagues, there is a possibility that you could find a mentor, which will be beneficial during the placement and afterwards.

3. Ask Questions
It’s unlikely that a company will expect you to know absolutely everything, so it’s fine, and usually expected that you ask questions. This shows how curious and interested in the company you are and that you want to use the placement as a learning experience.

4. CAPITALISE
Use your time wisely. Internships don’t last forever, so make the most of it whilst you’re there. Talk to as many people in the office as you can, regardless of their department or role, as you don’t know how they could help you or how you could help them. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, don’t be afraid to ask for work to do, even if it’s just filing.

5. Ask for feedback
This will help you in further placements and jobs, as it will let you know how you’re doing whilst on the placement. You don’t need to wait until your final week to ask for feedback, simply asking your boss if you’re doing a good job will show them just how determined you are and that you deserve to be there!