My experience of intermission suggests that Cambridge does a better job than some suggest

Catherine Hodge 21 November 2013

I cannot allow the bleak picture of ill students’ treatment in Cambridge to stand unchallenged. Last year, having spent the summer hospitalised due to depression and anorexia, and after discussion with my doctor, tutor and parents, I decided to “disregard terms.” Staff and fellow students were understanding and compassionate. I was told that I was valued by the college, that I could take as much time out as I needed, and was encouraged to visit friends in Cambridge during the year, checking in with my tutor when
I did so. There was never a sense that college wanted rid of me, or that I was a problem for them.
Responding to last week’s leader, different numbers of intermissions in different colleges reveal very little in isolation. Trinity may well have far fewer, but then perhaps fellows at Girton don’t tell their students that the only excuse for missing a supervision would be their own death, as my Trinitarian supervisor did this term.
It further strikes me as unfair and non-pragmatic for concerns about liability to be so casually dismissed. Organisations must consider risk and a student with an unstable medical condition does present a risk. If that is part of their condition and so will always be a factor then, yes, asking them
to take time out could be considered discriminatory. But if a condition can be managed given time and treatment, it makes sense to offer the student the chance to gain greater stability.
There are problems here, but coming from a school where the policy on the self-harm endemic was to “say nothing in case more people get ideas” I am grateful for how I was treated; with care, concern and respect.