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How to cope with student life

Explains how you can look after your mental health as a student, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

As coronavirus is having such a huge impact on all aspects of student life, we know that the usual advice might not quite apply. For practical tips on coping in the pandemic and getting mental health support, see our page on student mental health during coronavirus.

Visit our coronavirus hub for even more information about managing your mental health at this difficult time.

This information was authored by Student Minds, in partnership with Mind.


Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity, empowering students and members of the university community to look after their own mental health, support others and create change. They train students and higher education staff across the UK to deliver student-led peer support interventions as well as research-driven campaigns, resources and workshops.

This guide aims to support you during your time as a student and provides useful tips and guidance, whether you are experiencing mental health problems or have done in the past, or whether you would just like more information on how to keep yourself healthy and well in your new student life.

Studying is likely to bring a number of changes to your life. It can be enjoyable and interesting, but it can also be challenging.

You might face challenges such as:

  • meeting and working with new people
  • exams, deadlines for written work or presentations
  • managing your own finances
  • coping with homesickness
  • balancing the demands of studying with other commitments, such as caring responsibilities or work
  • maintaining relationships with family and old friends
  • leaving home, finding new housing and living with new people.

"When I began university I'd been struggling with my mental health for years but had not got help, and starting university in a new city kick-started my path to diagnosis and recovery."

Coping with new challenges can have an impact on your mental health, but there are lots of things that you can do to make your time as a student easier and more enjoyable.

Students are at higher risk of developing mental health problems with research showing many people first experience mental health problems or first seek help when they are at university.

Some of the specific things that, as a student, make you more susceptible to mental health problems include:

  • Your age – a large proportion of students are under 25 and around three-quarters of adults with a mental illness have their first episode before turning 25.
  • Stress – becoming a student can be a stressful experience. Although stress isn't a mental health problem, it can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. See our pages on managing stress for more information.
  • Lack of support – you might have left home for the first time, or just don't have enough time to see your friends and family. Not having a good support network can make you vulnerable to developing a mental health problem.

You may already be living with an existing mental health problem and be receiving help and support for this. As you transition to life as a student you may find that your support changes location or you transition from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to adult services.

It is important to continue your support if needed and become familiar with what this will look like for you as a student.

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Common mental health problems for students

According to recent research, 1 in 5 students has a diagnosed mental health problem. The following mental health problems are the most common among students.

See also our A-Z of mental health where you can find out more about mental health problems, as well as a range of other relevant topics.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health problems among students.

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to.

See our pages on anxiety for more information.

Depression

Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem among students. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

See our pages on depression for more information.

Suicidal feelings

Incidents of suicide at universities are more highly reported than in the general population. Suicide can have a significant impact on university communities.

Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.

See our pages on suicidal feelings for more information.

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

This information was published in September 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

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