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health during freshers

A guide to good health during university

As Freshers’ Week dawns, students are engaging in a new, fun, and exciting lifestyle that may involve experiencing new relationships, experimenting with different substances, and encountering a whole new set of emotions. Although this can seem daunting, there are plenty of places around campus which offer safe spaces to express any concerns you may have and ensure good health and wellbeing during Freshers’ Week and beyond.

As the new academic year begins, the free advice service at the Students’ Union (SU) is back to offer non-directive guidance and provide options to enable and empower students to take action and resolve issues for themselves.

Rebekah Ollerenshaw, Advice Service Supervisor, told The Mancunion: “We believe every student at the University of Manchester has the right to access free, confidential, non-judgemental, and impartial advice.”

“The Students’ Union Advice Service is independent from the University and students can therefore feel reassured and confident in contacting our service. In turn, the University knows that there is a dedicated professional service available to students to assist them in navigating many of the issues they may experience during their studies.”

The SU advice team, located on the first floor, also offers free STI testing throughout the year. A simple check for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, through the NHS RU Clear scheme, consists of urinating in a small pot, which is then handed back to a member of the team. Test results are received within a couple of weeks via text or email. Students don’t need to book an appointment for this and can drop in anytime between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. If students need a wider range of screenings, the advice service can signpost them to community services such as The Hathersage Centre on Upper Brook Street, or their GP.

Many taboos surround STI checks, such as, “there are no treatments available” or “my genitalia will be cut off.” However, it can be assured that neither of these things are true. Effective treatments are currently available for syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, usually requiring a trip to the GP for a course of antibiotics. Upon completion, you’re good to go. However, as stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are four viral infections that are currently incurable. These include hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV). The NHS recommends getting the hepatitis B vaccination before or during university to prevent spreading the virus.

To prevent the spreading of STIs, it’s important to look after and educate yourself, as well as others, about a healthy lifestyle throughout university. The non-profit organisation, Sexpression UK, aims to provide access to reliable information about relationships, sex and sexuality. Sexpression Manchester also delivers free STI tests at their pop-up stalls, using the same RU Clear service as the SU, on campus from the Stopford Building to University Place.

If you want something a little more private, RUClear online also offers a postal service, allowing you to take the test in the comfort of your own home.

In 2015, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reported that an increase in alcohol consumption was directly correlated with a lack of sleep and decline in academic performance in university students. If you are concerned about your own or a friend’s dependence on alcohol, the advice service at the SU also offers an Open Young Persons’ Alcohol Anonymous group every Thursday in Room 7.

The LGBTQ+ society in Manchester is an ever-growing community which aims to support all LGBTQ+ students. A friendly support group welcomes all students identifying in the LGBTQ+ spectrum who are experiencing psychological difficulties. The group is run by students and supported by the University Counselling Service. Meetings are usually held once a week in the Simon Building.

Another service that the University of Manchester offers is to register with a local GP at the Freshers’ Fair. This is an extremely important decision to make, as ‘freshers flu’ is a catastrophic ailment that will hit most hypochondriacs across the nation. Signing up to a local GP is seen as more beneficial than sticking to the one you have at home because most of the year is typically spent at university. If you become seriously unwell at home, you can contact a local practice for temporary registration.

Many students tend to mistake ‘freshers’ flu’, also known as the common cold, for a bacterial infection. It is important to remember that antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and colds are caused by viruses. The NHS says that you can treat a common cold within one to two weeks and a visit to the GP is unnecessary.

Many students mistakenly ask for, or are mis-prescribed, a course of antibiotics which they ‘forget’ to complete. This increases susceptibility to other bacterial infections, leading to further illness. Therefore, the NHS only suggest seeing a GP if your symptoms do not improve after three weeks, if your symptoms suddenly get worse, or if your temperature is very high and you feel hot and shivery.

It’s important to remember that your mental and physical health are important during the entirety of university, not just during Freshers’ Week. So, look after yourself and others, whilst having a safe, fun, and exciting new year.

Tags: advice service, Freshers, Freshers' Week, LGBTQ, sti, Students Union

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