Being at university can bring with it many pressures. In addition to coursework challenges and the stress of exams there are often financial strains, relationship difficulties, pressure from family, homesickness and many other demands! It’s completely normal to feel down, stressed and anxious from time to time, and you’re not alone with 78% of students having reported suffering from mental health problems in the last year, but if your symptoms persist or start to affect your daily activities, it’s important to get help.
What are the signs?
- Feeling down
- Feeling more anxious or agitated than usual
- Struggling to see a way out
- Losing interest in life
- Losing motivation
Outward signs that a friend or classmate could be suffering from mental health problems:
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Missing lectures and deadlines
- Becoming withdrawn
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Sleep problems
Where to get help:
- Friends and family – Sometimes just sharing your feelings with someone that you trust can bring with it an immediate sense of relief. You may find it reassuring to hear that others are in the same boat, have experienced something similar or just to know that you have their support.
- Student-run groups – Some university’s have free student-led groups or services for those suffering from stress or depression. While not professionally qualified you may find it useful to speak to someone who is a peer.
- University Counsellor – Most universities have professionally qualified counsellors and psychotherapists who provide free and confidential in-house treatment or counselling services. You can find out more by looking on your university’s website. They may also have a Mental Health Advisor who can help you access the support that you need, such as time off or extensions
- Online – There are also online self-help services you may like to explore, such as NHS Choices’ Moodzoneand the Students Against Depression
- Psychologist or Psychotherapist – Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offer opportunities to explore the underlying cause of your unhappiness or any worries you may have, in a safe environment, and can help you to develop helpful coping techniques and skills.
- NHS Counselling or Therapy– You might to refer yourself for NHS counselling or therapy. Search for psychological therapy services to find out what’s available in your area. The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) represents the network of mental health advisers working in higher education dedicated to providing practical support to students experiencing mental health difficulties. If you are unsure what services you require, speak to your GP.
- Voluntary Organisations – There are many voluntary organisations available that can offer specialist help, such as MIND or CRUSE for bereavement. The Samaritans are also available if you are having feelings or despair or suicidal thoughts.
- A&E – If you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening medical or mental health emergency, attend A&E or call 999. The staff will tend to your immediate physical and mental health needs and assess your best course of care. Many hospitals now have a liaison psychiatry team or psychological medicine service. This is designed to bridge the gap between mental and physical healthcare.
Whoever you decide to contact for help, be honest and open with them and describe how you feel in your own words. Don’t worry if you don’t know what is causing the feelings or think that your problem is too big or too small to seek help. You may want to prepare before having a conversation by writing down a few points that you would like to say, or you may decide to bring someone with you for support like a close friend or family member.
Suffering from mental health difficulties can often leave people feeling isolated but with 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering each year, remember you are not alone and there is help available.