Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Disappointed at Western University's Undergraduate Counselling

Earlier this week I had what happens to be a panic attack. It wasn't just a memory slip, I was feeling nauseous and light headed - not only could I not focus on the exam I couldn't put my thoughts in order or think clearly. I felt extreme anxiety and could barely calm myself down and tried to take deep breathes to slow my body down. The exam wasn't even very hard but when you're in that state it makes it difficult to work through it. I even had a cheat sheet but could barely use it.

Anyways immediately after the exam I walked over to my professor asking what I could do from that point explaining what had just happened. He told me that it would probably be ok if I got the necessary documentation from the doctor and spoke to my academic counsellor.

I went to the student health services and spoke to a doctor who did provide me with a doctors note. It was fair, and mentioned that it was his first time seeing me (its pretty much walk in so that's not surprising) and it seemed like I had a panic attack and put it until mental health.

After handing in the paperwork my counsellor asked me to come meet with him. Here is the part that has me questioning the university's own honesty.
Throughout the school year I have seen its efforts go toward campaigns supporting mental health and any stigma that comes with it. One of the biggest hurdles faced is that people do not take it as serious as a physical illness. My counsellor seemed to question the legitimacy of what I said, and stated that it was a self diagnosis - since my doctor couldn't see what was happening himself. Does that mean that anyone affected with a mental illness will be questioned and doubted?

Furthermore the absurdity of it was there was no future prevention. The university's policy is that you can leave the exam within the first 30 minutes. What was wrong with my request was that I had stayed. The problem here is that you are not allowed to leave after the 30!! By staying you count as having written the exam - but really, is there any other choice? No! Essentially he told me next time 'if I suffered from another panic attack I should leave in the first 30 minutes.' I'm sorry I cannot plan when it happens. Of course I had not planned to have it past the 30 minutes were up. So if this happens again, after the 30 nothing will chance and they will not accommodate you. Does if mean if someone starts vommitting halfway through the exam they will not be excused?

I was also cc'ed on the email sent to my professor regarding why he would not support my accommodation. I found his email unfair and biased as he noted that ' I think I had a panic attack' , as opposed to stating that I had said I had one. By using the word 'think' he puts doubt/question into what I said. This was incorrect as it was also the doctor himself who printed on the note that it was him who thought that it was what happened. He further went to say that the doctors note was 'inconclusive' -failing to mention exactly what I just said; I feel that it implies to my professor that the doctor really didn't find anything wrong at all when this is not the case.

My counsellor mentioned not to go to the exam if it happens again, when this was not something that happened prior that I could avoid. He said that people 'blank' all the time - offending me since he seemed to think that it was not a big deal at all and that what occurred was really just an every day occurrence of little severity. He also commented on how you should just take a Tylenol for a headache - he said he knew that I did not have a headache but it seemed like he was paralleling the two which was again highly offensive.

Not impressed Western.

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