For many, university is a time of unprecedented excitement and opportunity. You’ll meet hundreds of new people, discover new places, explore the different corners of your individual interests, and make some unforgettable memories. Student life is a time of discovery but it’s a lot to take on, and there can be a sense of pressure to make it “the best time of your life”, even if you’re not enjoying it. All too often it can lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression.
It’s essential that you know how to stay well as you face your university years, and that’s why we’ve put together this guide. We’ll give you an overview of the role university can play in your mental health, and walk you through some key avenues of mental health services to seek support when you need it.
Mental Health at University
It’s important to acknowledge the importance of mental health in all stages of your life, and at university that’s no different. It’s a time of significant upheaval – the pressures of academic success, new social circles, location changes, finances, physical health, even factors such as language and weather, can all contribute to mental health concerns, and many students struggle to cope. While there are a number of good-quality mental health support networks available, university institutions themselves are becoming increasingly active in protecting and helping students.
In 2019 the UK took a massive step forward when it published The University Mental Health Charter. Initiated by Student Minds, the charter proposes a framework of core values which all universities can strive to achieve, ensuring that they provide the best possible mental health services for their students.
Emergency Support When You Need It Most
If the situation is getting too much to handle and you’re beginning to feel trapped or hopeless, you may be experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s essential that you reach out to someone immediately – you aren’t alone in desperate times, and there are trained professionals who can help you get through the darkest of days.
- The Samaritans are there to listen when you need to talk. Their suicide prevention service is free, non-judgemental, and available 24/7. You can call their helpline on 116 123, or send them an email: [email protected].
- The NHS’ urgent mental health helpline is another anytime support service that can put you in touch with a mental health professional. They offer empathetic, impartial advice and can help you decide on the best course of action. Access the NHS’ urgent medical advice on the phone by dialling NHS 111.
- The Nightline Association’s vision is for every student to have knowledge of, and access to, confidential emotional peer support. They’re committed to improving mental health awareness, ensuring no struggling student goes unheard. Whatever your university, you can find your Nightline online or make contact via the website.
Mental Health Support in All Shapes and Sizes
If you or someone you know requires student mental health support, there are a number of different paths you can take. Whether you’re searching for a counsellor or just looking to chat, mental health resources are never far away.
- Student Minds
Student Minds is the foremost mental health charity for higher education in the UK. Through a variety of services, they educate and empower people across the country, transforming higher education support so that help is available for all mental health needs.
As part of their student mental health care, Student Minds offer a range of Peer Support Programmes catered to the university community. Though not a substitute for professional therapy services, being heard in a safe and understanding group of young adults can make it a little easier to manage stress.
There are staff-run, drop-in workshops available – ‘Look After Your Mate’ and ‘Mental Health in Sport’ – where students work alongside mental health experts to develop the skills they need to support themselves and each other. Find out which workshops your university is running on the Student Minds website.
Student Space, initiated by Student Minds, is a specialist university service offering students the support they need during the coronavirus pandemic. Student Space are there for advice or information on mental health and wellbeing for all students, no matter the situation. There are plenty of ways to get in touch listed on their website.
- Visit your GP
It doesn’t matter if you’re living at home or in a brand new place, going to see your GP is a great first step on the path to mental health support. Your GP can offer sound advice, and they’re in the know about the range of different mental health services available to help you. They can also talk over your medication options with you. Use the NHS website to input your postcode and find your nearest GP here.
- Your university counselling service or mental health advisor
Almost every university has informative and impartial campus counselling centres, the details of which will be available from your university website or by visiting the Student Union. Campus clinicians can meet with you one-on-one to talk things through. In some cases you may need to wait before you can meet with a counsellor, and sometimes they may not be able to provide you with suitable support. If this is the case, you will likely be provided with details for other services you can try.
Alternatively, you can choose to visit your university advice centre. This is a free and confidential consultation service which offers information and support on a range of issues faced by students. If you need help but don’t know what kind, these are the people to seek out.
UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network) is a specialist support network providing psychological services to students with mental health conditions. They facilitate an MHA (Mental Health Advisor) for universities. An MHA differs from a counsellor in that they focus on supporting students in dealing with the effects of their condition, helping them overcome the barriers to productive study.
- Friends and Family
When seeking mental health support, be sure not to overlook the support networks all around you in the shape of your friends or family. Your personal network of loved ones may not be trained mental health professionals but if they are there for you, reach out to them – these are the people that know you best, and they can point you in the right direction for emotional health in your student life.
Don’t Suffer in Silence
As a student, you’ll encounter countless challenges throughout your university career, and sometimes, it can take a toll. There’s no shame in reaching out for help dealing with the impacts of your mental health.
On top of all the support services we’ve already mentioned, The Awareness Centre is here for you – in over thirty languages. Book an appointment with us today to discuss whatever is on your mind.