On Completing University Part-time

At the beginning of my degree, if I’d been asked if I would ever go part-time with my course, I would have certainly said ‘no’. Yet, that’s not how things occurred and after my first year, I did drop a subject (still considered full-time) and then later took a leave of absence for a year. Unsurprisingly, my views about going part-time have changed.

University can be full on and I found myself drowning in coursework and exams, and for a while forgot who I was as a person. It’s important to have a balance between studying, work, and things that you find enjoyable. My problem was that I was too focused on grades and living up to my peers, and therefore wasn’t enjoying it.

The best thing I ever did was take time off. The notion of completing an undergrad in three years is changing and I’ve come across a lot of people who are choosing to do it over four or even five! You are not weak or abnormal for choosing to take that little bit longer during your studies and you may actually be better off. Spending more time on fewer subjects means you will have a better chance at getting those HDs and be able to enjoy university life more.

If you need to take longer than usual to finish your studies, that is okay. It is perfectly normal. You are not worth less than your peers. You are not doing anything wrong. You are not expected to complete them in a set time. I wish someone had told me when I first started because I may have been able to have had a better quality of life during the beginning of my studies.


How I Write My Notes Now

  1. I used to organise my notes on the computer as seen here, but found that it was difficult for me to remember them and I am the type of learner who needs to physically write my notes out.Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 12.59.38 pm.png
  2. The method that works best for me now involves printing off the lecture slides, writing on them during lectures and then organising them in folders. I tend to have one folder for two subjects so two folders per semester. This has changed a lot to how I previously took my notes, which you’ll see was primarily computer-based. I also take a plastic document folder to all my classes for loose pieces of paper which go into my folder when at home. Then during SWOTVAC, I rewrite my notes into a spiral notebook and/or cue cards and mindmaps.img_22851.jpg

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error to work out what works for me but now I have and it’s become almost automatic. You need to find a method that works for you and for the subject you are studying because everyone learns differently.

A History of Psychiatry in 5 Objects

  1. 400-500 BC: Humorism


Figure 1: Humorism

Humorism was an early theory for the mechanisms of the body. Hippocrates (400-500BC) stated that illness was caused by an imbalance of four humours; blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile (Stelmack and Stalikas 1991, 257), an idea that reigned until the 17th Century (Bos 2009, 29). Galen (Hague 1991) later linked blood to a sanguine disposition (hopeful); yellow bile to a choleric one (easily angered), phlegm to a phlegmatic one (calm, neutral); and black bile to melancholia (sadness). It was understood that imbalances could be adjusted with physical treatments, such as bloodletting and emetics that would remove a humour that was in excess (Androutsos et al 2008, 32), and bleeding and vomiting were evidence that the imbalance was rectified.

Humorism provided a holistic view of wellness that acknowledged the importance of both physical and environmental factors, such as diet and exercise (Telles-Correia and Marques 2015). It was predominately a departure from supernatural ideology and the role of the gods, in favour of the concept that physical and mental health were intrinsically linked (Bos 2009, 31). Bos (2009, 29) believes the decline is linked to a parting from a focus on character in favour of alternative theories. Nevertheless, the idea of balance remains prevalent.

2. From the 17th C: The Asylum


Figure 2: Bethlehem Hospital 1714

The concept of locking up the insane began in the late 17th Century (Porter 2002, 51-52). The Asylum was an institution based on moral therapy; the premise that psychology and compassion could be used to treat severe mental illness (Rosenblatt 1984). Prior to this, individuals were largely kept in the community (Porter 2002). One of the earliest hospitals was Tuke’s York Retreat (1796) (Rosenblatt 1984, 246), which echoed the theory of Pinel breaking patient chains (Porter 2002, 58). Both advocated for routines, pleasant surrounds and to abolish restraint.

The asylums were self-contained yet isolated, with architecture that was part of the treatment (Porter 2002, 62). Early on, conditions varied greatly and following outrage at abuse of patients like William Norris at the Bethlehem Hospital (1814), a move was made towards regulation through the Mad House Act of 1828 (Wiles 2016). However, due to overpopulation, patient care declined and by the 1890s more were leaving dead than cured, influencing consequent deinstitutionalisation (Wiles 2016, Porter 2002, 64).

Originating as a place of refuge, asylums were a sign and place of progress (Porter 2002, 65). While it is argued that moving the focus from the body to the mind merely meant switching repression type (Foucault, 1988, 266), this does not warrant overlooking the introduction of compassion, hope and a person-central approach (Shorter, 1997, 4).

3. 1939: Electro-Convulsive Therapy

2Figure 3: Australian ECT Machine (Melbourne Museum 2017)

Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is arguably the greatest discovery of psychiatry, and the most effective and empirical treatment (Shorter and Healy 2007, 2).

Replacing chemical alternatives such as metrazol and insulin, both dangerous and less successful, it is a form of shock therapy (1935; Shorter and Healy 2007, 6) which was based on Meduna’s idea that schizophrenia was an antagonist of epilepsy. The concept was to treat symptoms by disrupting brain activity through seizures, coma or loss of consciousness (Piotrowski and Guerra 2016). The development of the Bini-Cerletti ECT machine was motivated by the desire to find a safer treatment.

4. 1951: The First Antipsychotic (Chlorpromazine)

Laborit’s and Rhone-Poulence’s discovery of Chlorpromazine (1951), the first antipsychotic, was a precursor to the rapid development of the psychopharmacology industry (Ban 2007).


It was initially used with general anaesthesia to sedate and prevent shock(Carpenter and Davis 2012, 1168) and when trialled on patient Jacques Lh. undergoing ECT, an improvement of psychiatric symptoms was observed (Ban 2007). This was replicated by Deniker and Delay, who announced in Luxemburg that Chlorpromazine reduced psychosis symptoms(Carpenter and Davis 2012). Following this, Chlorpromazine saw the wards of asylums grow calm as noisy schizophrenic patients became quieter and more docile (Elkes and Elkes, 1954, 560), thus reducing violence and the number of hospitalised patients. Hence, despite some side effects like tardive dyskinesia, it became regarded as a miracle drug (Ban 2007, Carpenter and Davis 2012)


Following moral therapy’s failure, antipsychotics offered the possibility of a scientific and medical approach that shifted the location of clinical care(Carpenter and Davis 2012, 1168). It wasn’t long before advertisements began marketing Chlorpromazine at not only schizophrenia, but also emotional instability, hiccups and cancer (APA 1956, 2; APA 1958), highlighting the lack of understanding of the mechanisms of the drug. Over time the uses became more specific and psychopharmacology grew rapidly and chlorpromazine prompted the development of the dopamine hypothesis (Carpenter and Davis 2012, 1170).

5. 980- The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III

5Figure 6: DSM-III

The third edition (1980) of the APA’s DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), was revolutionary for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness (Decker 2013, xvii).

The DSM-III influenced psychiatry’s shift from an aetiological and psychoanalytic focus, towards descriptive classification (Decker 2003, xvi). Neo-Kraepelinian in nature, (Tsou 2016), it emphasised symptoms and course and aimed to provide clear and valid definitions (APA 2017). This was influenced by the 5-axis system implemented by Spitzer, who advocated for biological ideas (Decker 2013, 315-317). The manual was larger than it’s predecessors and involved the caveats that the criteria were not completely discrete, and should only be used by psychiatrists (APA 1980), for whom it became convenient shorthand.

The DSM-IIIs flaws can be seen through attempts of subsequent editions to rectify mistakes, such as homosexuality’s removal in 1973 (Cooper 2004, 6) and some argue that it has not managed to progress beyond description (Tsou 2016). The criteria were not as clear or evidence based as intended, and symptom thresholds excluded many people from diagnosis (Cooper 2004, 5-22). Nevertheless, the DSM-III was a milestone document due to its descriptive diagnostic categories and the support for which it gave to the disease model (Decker 2013). It was the first DSM to become widely used by professionals and provide a uniform method of diagnosis (Tsou 2016).

The results of electrically induced seizures in a patient called Enrico X, were presented at the 3rd International Neurological Congress (1939), with a reported significant reduction of symptoms (Shorter and Healey 2007, 43), from which ECT rose to popularity in the 1940s. Early on, seizures would result in physical harm and this led to the development of muscle relaxants and use of anaesthetics (Piotrowski and Guerra 2016).

Despite initial popularity, in the 1980s antipsychiatry and politics resulted in rapid decline in the use and reputation of ECT, damage that is still being reversed today (Shorter and Healey 2007, 145). ECT’s development is significant as it is an empirical treatment that can produce rapid responses to acute symptoms of psychosis and depression (Shorter 1997, 3).


The Power of Self Compassion

Being compassionate towards others is one thing, but how about directing it towards yourself? Many people find this difficult but allow me to explain why it is important.

Phrases such as ‘ I am enough’ and ‘I am deserving’, hold huge amounts of power. It would not feel significant saying them to yourself, but over time it makes a difference.

I don’t believe in ‘should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’, as we are continuously growing. Every day we are working on ourselves and progressing. Both the good and bad time help to shape us into the person who we are and that’s a journey that we go on throughout our whole lives.

The simple fact is, that changes in behaviour start with changes in mindset and this can be as simple as noticing when you are criticising yourself and being your own bully and acknowledging what you are doing. You could also try reminding yourself that you are multifaceted and have both good and bad parts. One wouldn’t exist without the other.

Change starts with you at the forefront, you can hear all this and not take anything in or you can choose to think about it and find what works for you. There is no one right way to think or do things as we are all individuals, but there may be a right way for you.

So next time you notice you are criticising yourself, acknowledge it. Tell yourself that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to not always have the answer or do things the way you want to. It’s okay because you are human and humans are imperfect. You are deserving of health and happiness and compassion. You do your best every day and that’s all anyone can do. Be nice to yourself, someone needs to be and there’s no reason why that can’t be you.

Cheers to 21 Years

Today I did something that for a long time I wasn’t sure I would; I turned twenty-one. I wasn’t sure that I would make it this far, but I have.

This feels like the year that I should start feeling like an adult. Turning twenty didn’t feel much different to being a teenager, and now it’s getting real. Guess this means I should start getting my life in order.

Good job me, you made it this far and the world didn’t end. Things will be okay. Just wait and see. You’ll be okay, I promise.

A Guide to Practicing Self Care

Self Care is an important tool for maintaining mental and physical wellbeing. It’s something that’s often passed off as too difficult to fit into our schedules or something we think works for other people and not ourselves. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes it’s just allowing ourselves to take a break and stop and simply exist. Below is my guide to simple and achievable self-care.

Take Breaks to Recharge

Whether it be from work to study, taking a break from day to day life to do something that makes you feel good can be extremely beneficial. Listening to music, taking a long luxurious bath, painting your nails, sipping herbal tea, watching Netflix or whatever it may be, take time out for yourself to recover.

Find a hobby

This may sound self-explanatory but having a hobby is a good way to destress or unwind and it gives you something to do during the times when you don’t have much to keep you occupied.  Some hobbies include; knitting, crochet, sewing, drawing, running, sport or journalling

Congratulate Yourself for Your Achievements

We are often so busy comparing our lives to that of others’, that we seldom find time to recognise our own achievements. Life is hard. It’s feel of challenges, bumps and hardships that we have to overcome and sometimes even the simple things can be hard. Congratulate yourself for making your bed, for eating breakfast, for not arguing with your family although you wanted to. Whatever it is, you’re doing your best and that’s enough. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be you.

Going into my final year of study

This year will be my fourth year completing my undergraduate degree. I started it straight out of high school and have now completed two full years of study. It’s difficult knowing that many of my classmates have graduated and sometimes that makes me feel left behind, but other times it doesn’t bother me too much. I may have taken longer but I needed to due to my health and I believe that my grades have been much higher than what they would otherwise be. So in some ways, my peers have surpassed me but in other ways, they have not. Slow and steady wins the race as they say but this is my personal experience and what works for me might not work for others.

This year I am completing two full-time semesters and one winter subject that I need to make up. I am majoring in psychology and this means that I have two core subjects plus some elective psych subjects to do. I am excited because this means that I finally get to go more in-depth in clinical psych and neuroscience, areas which I deeply enjoy. However, I am also scared about what this means because at the end of this year my degree will be finished. Then I have to choose where I want to go from there. Will I continue with honours? Will I complete my masters? And in what and where? I’m anxious even thinking about it. I am just as uncertain about my future as I was when I had just finished high school.

I hope that this year I can do well with my grades and get into something that makes me happy and that I’m passionate about. I want to do well but I also want to stay mentally and physically well. I think I am finally learning to balance and manage my illnesses with other commitments. It’s taken me a long time but I’m heading in the right direction and that gives me hope.

Navigating University With a Mental Health Condition

Being independent is difficult and even more so, when you are balancing a mental health condition. If the media is correct, then going off to university is meant to be the peak of a young person’s life; it’s the border between being a teenager and becoming an adult. Yet, for many young people it can be the source of disappointment or uncertainty. Below are some tips for how to make the most of university and the resources available.

Register for the disability service

Most unis have a service dedicated to supporting students with an illness, including mental illness. They can provide important information about special consideration, help with applying for extensions, offer alternative assessment rearrangements and check in to see how you’re doing.

Utilise course planning services and student advisors

You can often feel like your identity has been reduced to just one number among many so making appointments with advisors can help you to engage with university staff and feel like you are being listened to. There is staff dedicated to helping you plan your degree, sort out accommodation and financial aid and navigate other services.

Get Organised

Diaries are an extremely important and simple way to keep track of assignments and dates and getting stationary together before classes start can help you to feel on top of things. You can also carry around your class timetable in case you ever need to check it.

Download the Lost on Campus app

The lost on campus app provides a map and direction system that can be used to find classrooms and lecture theatres. If you ever get lost then all you need to do is open the app up on your phone and put in where you want to go and it will direct you.

Seek outside support

Whether this is through a GP or psychologist (most unis have a service too but you won’t want to have an outside one), or through Centrelink having extra support can be crucial to reaching your potential.

Talk to staff

Your tutors are there to help you so talk to them if any issues come up and you’re not sure what to do. There also there to help you learn so make sure to ask questions about the content and assessments and are not a stranger to the teaching staff. The best way to learn is by asking questions.

Look after yourself

Self-care is an essential part of staying well. Find other things that you enjoy and that aren’t related to study, to give yourself a break. This could be through university clubs, learning an instrument or language, work, volunteering, art groups or reading. Whatever it is, make sure you have something that breaks up the study so that your life is enriched and you don’t burn out. Grades are important but there is also more to life than studying.

But you don’t look depressed

I don’t know what image the word ‘depression’ conjures in people’s minds but I can guarantee it’s not the smiling and chirpy university student. The reality is, no one can read minds, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on for someone unless you ask them.

I’ve been told by health professionals, that I don’t look depressed or that I’m doing better than what I’m saying I am. But unfortunately, they’re judgements are usually based on what is visible and not what isn’t. not usually the case. I may look happy and be smiling but really, inside I am struggling with feelings of despair and worthlessness. Struggling with the feeling that I don’t deserve to live. Sometimes this facade may be on purpose but that’s not always the case.

Regardless, I want you to know when I’m struggling. Whether I try to hide it or not, I want you to know because in that comes a sense of validation. The knowledge that while this may be in my head, it is still real. What I’m feeling is real even if it is not obvious.












My undergrad degree was worth it

Going into my degree, a 3-year bachelor of science, I knew that it wouldn’t result in an instant qualification or easy transition into a high-paying job. Some days I regret that, but most days I don’t. Yes, I could have done a health care undergrad and enjoyed it, but as a 17 year old I was confused and just wanted to learn. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I wasn’t ready to commit.

Now, coming towards the end of my degree the irony is I’m still tossing up between the same options; nursing, OT and psych, but I’ve also added research.

Was it worth it? Yes. Yes, it was.

I was given the chance to choose electives from history and philosophy, creative writing and linguistics. I studied plant science, Australian flora and fauna, chemistry and biology. All of this, enriched my psychology major and I’m grateful for the diversity of the knowledge I’ve been able to develop.

Psychology is one of those areas that can benefit from studies of history, biology, and philosophy. In the APA major, only limited time is given to each of these and my elected subjects have provided me which a much broader understanding that I wouldn’t have otherwise gained.

Biology has helped me to understand how the brain works in relation to the body. Philosophy has taught me about mind-body dualism and the philosophy of the mind and mental illness. History has taught me about how health was once conceived by Galen as a balance of four bodily fluids, that mental illness was once thought to be caused by witchcraft, that the asylums were not all doom and gloom and moral therapy provided a more humane understanding. I learned that psychiatric medications and the DSM were all formed on unstable and even experimental foundations, that even today ECT is the treatment with the most evidence behind it. I wouldn’t have understood any of this from just my major.

In addition to this, I’ve leaned things that have made me a better person. I gained an understanding of the major schools of philosophy; Buddhism, Descartes, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Kant. Through physiology, I understand many of the processes happening in my body. I know that fat and carbs aren’t bad. That the news can and often does lie. I learn how to think critically and evaluate studies that are often portrayed as true when they are not.

I have developed opinions and the ability to think for myself and not just agree with other people. Through university, I have found my own unique voice and have become a person that I am proud of.

The Melbourne Model worked for me. Yes, it’s taken me longer to get on a path towards my career but it’s also given me so much that is invaluable and will be for the rest of my life. My degree supported my intellectual transition into adulthood and provided me with the foundations to become a critical thinker and a hard-working and compassionate human being. For that, I will be eternally grateful.