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.
There are many different individuals and organisations who can offer you support. If possible, it is helpful to put this support in place when things are going well, so that it is easy for you to ask for help if you start to find things more difficult. Try thinking about who you feel comfortable talking to. You might want support from:
Whether you have an existing mental health condition or are starting to find things difficult to manage, considering your options for support can be really helpful.
Support can vary in terms of how easy it is to access and the quality, so it can be useful to consider a variety of places and people that you can seek support from, as well as using self-help techniques such as mindfulness or physical activity, as part of keeping yourself well.
"However difficult it may feel, it is important to be open with your university if you are suffering with mental health problems. You will be unable to receive the support you need and that is available without doing so."
Your university or college may have a disability support service who can support you to manage any health problem that affects your studies. This includes both physical and mental health problems.
You can arrange a meeting with this service to discuss any challenges that you might have with your studies, and look at what support the service can provide. The service may be able to arrange:
The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) is a good source of information about the support you could be entitled to.
Most universities and colleges have a counselling service providing support to students for free. They can offer advice about your circumstances independently of your academic tutors or your GP.
You can usually self-refer to a university or college counselling service, so you don't need to see your GP first or have a medical diagnosis.
Your place of study may have a Students' Union with a welfare officer or a Student Advice Service offering free and independent advice or support. They can also refer you to external support.
Student Advice Services are staffed by elected student representatives who have received additional training, or Students' Union staff members who may have experience or training in specific areas such as law or mental health. Students' Unions and the staff they employ are independent of the university or college, although usually based in the same buildings.
Your university or college should assign you an academic supervisor or tutor to provide support and advice about your studies. If your tutor knows about your mental health, they may be able to support you in your studies, and help you access further academic support.
Each place of study will offer slightly different support so it is always worth taking a look at their website to see what is available to you.
"The tutors who I chose to open up to were supportive. As a result of asking for help I realised that with a few adjustments I would be able to finish my course, and nobody thought any less of me."
Your GP can support you by:
If you don't have a diagnosis but are concerned about your mental health, you can always speak to your GP about this. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for more information on support from your GP.
You can also find more advice from the NHS on student health on NHS Choices Live Well.
For international students who are unfamiliar with the National Health Service (NHS) and how to access support, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has some useful information on looking after yourself and how to get medical treatment should you need it.
"I found having someone in healthcare validate how I was feeling extremely positive. Knowing that what I was experiencing wasn't just normal sadness, but that it also had a name, helped me understand myself and support myself better for the rest of the term."
There are some charities and organisations who specifically work with students, and could offer you support:
Voluntary organisations and charities also provide support to students and specific groups, as well as members of public. For example, you might want support from:
When you experience a mental health problem it can feel as if no one understands. Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Many students find that meeting others with experience of mental health difficulties helps them feel less alone and makes it easier to talk about their own mental health.
Check out your college or university's counselling service, Students' Union or Student Minds peer support programmes for more information about peer support near you.
"If you find yourself having to choose between university and mental health treatment, my advice would be to choose mental health treatment. It's more important. You can always pick up where you left off with studying, but you can't really do that with your health, as the longer you leave it the harder it becomes to treat."
If your friends or housemates have been worried about how you are doing, talking to them might be a relief for all of you. If you are worried about how they will react, talk to them about this – they may appreciate your advice on how they can help and what they can to do to be supportive.
Student Minds provides advice and support for students supporting friends.
"Telling people around me that I'm struggling will help, as they can help me feel happy."
If you have moved away from home, it can be difficult to keep in contact with friends and family, particularly if you are an international student. Even if you have not moved, you may not spend as much time with your family and friends as you used to – you may just have less time than before, are discovering new friends, or may just want to be more independent while studying.
However it can be useful, especially if you're feeling low or experiencing poor mental health, to get support from old friends and your family.
Some ways to ensure you can keep in contact while also having an independent or new lifestyle are:
This information was published in September 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
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