While we’re usually very open to talking about our excitement of going off to university, there’s one thing we all tend to be less comfortable talking about – our mental health. So what happens if you need help with your mental health at uni? Let's take a look...
Why Mental Health Is Important
It’s really important to look after your mental health, especially during university where you’re experiencing new things and meeting new people, all while being away from family and friends back home.
Depression in particular can be a long term problem or a temporary feeling brought on by a specific incident; some students, for example, might find themselves struggling to adapt to their new environment, or feel under pressure with their workload, especially around exam time.
Tom Madders, Campaigns Director at
, says: “ YoungMinds Mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health at universities. Relationship troubles, living away from home for the first time and coping with financial struggles are all examples of pressures faced by students. The impact of poor mental health on student life can be devastating so we encourage students to be vocal and get the support they need.”
So if you find yourself struggling with your mental health, the important thing to remember is you are not alone, and that’s it’s absolutely fine to ask for, or accept help from those around you, as well as medical professionals.
, for example, estimates that up 29% of its students experience mental health worries at some point in their studies. The University of Warwick
How To Get Mental Health Support at University
Image via blogs.cardiff.ac.uk
So how can you get mental health support at university?
Pretty much all universities have a student support team (you’ll often find their office in the students’ union), and they’re the people you can approach for advice on any number of topics – from financial worries to problems with your accommodation or your course – and they’re also your first port of call for mental health support.
Your university will also have a dedicated mental health support service, sometimes called a wellbeing service, and you can go to them with any kind of mental health worry, whether it's depression, anxiety or grief, and may offer therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), or simply a friendly ear and practical advice and problem solving. Where necessary, your university mental health support team will be able to refer you to external services.
John, who studies at the
, described why he went to his uni’s mental health support team: University of Sussex
"I was feeling very stressed about my course, and started to notice that my day-to-day life had become seriously difficult because of it,’ he said. ‘I knew Sussex had a mental health support service because I knew a couple of people who had used it, and it had been heavily advertised during Freshers’ Week and around the two exam periods. I was offered a variant of CBT, which comprised six, one-hour per week sessions. It was mainly just someone listening to me talk, but I found it helpful."
And if you don’t feel comfortable going to student support or a university mental health support service, you can also go to your GP, who can refer you to a counsellor for some free sessions, provide advice and possibly give you medication if they feel it would benefit you.
You can also
go and see a counsellor privately, although be aware these can often be costly depending on who you decide to see.
Whatever is troubling you, there’s going to be someone who can help, and there’s absolutely no shame in asking for advice.
Universities With Good Mental Health Support
Image via mentalhealthtalk
You can find out what other students are saying about the mental health support at their university by
we've collected from students at uni. reading the reviews
One university which offers a comprehensive range of mental health services for its students is
in London. Kingston University
"Kingston University takes the mental health of its students very seriously and offers a range of support and counselling solutions,’ says Juanita West, a representative of the university. ‘Whether students are worried about themselves or a friend, they can try one of the many options available through the Student Wellbeing service.2
Some of these options include:
Daily Drop-in Sessions – Where any student can speak to a counsellor or health advisor in confidence without an appointment.
Coping Mechanisms and Exam Nerves Sessions – Where students can learn relaxation techniques and time management skills.
Night-time Support – Kingston University, in collaboration with the students’ union, runs London Nightline, a telephone advice service accessible at night, when other services are closed. The confidential service is run by highly trained student volunteers, who are happy to give advice on any topic. They also offer an online chat for those without access to a phone.
Stress Management Workshops – According to the university, problems with managing stress was a recurring theme among visitors to the Wellbeing Service, so stress management workshops were set up in response.
Health advisor Coral Brazier, from the Wellbeing Service, said:
"Being a student can be stressful for a whole number of reasons – it may be a student’s first time away from home, they may be worried about exams, coursework or money, or they could have concerns about a relationship. Kingston University’s Wellbeing Service has been running stress management workshops for a few years now, and students find them really useful."
Online Therapy – Kingston offers CBT based courses which students can access from the comfort of their own homes, using just a laptop. Courses include Managing Anxiety, Managing Depression, Managing Stress and Body and Self Image.
The university also has a team of Student Life Advisors who work with students to assess how their mental health difficulties might impact on their education. These advisors can negotiate course adjustment for students with special mental health needs, such as extra time in examinations and alternative assessments for students who feel unable to participate in group work or presentations.
To contact London Nightline, students you can call 020 7631 0101 between 6pm and 8am every night of term, email firstname.lastname@example.org or chat online at
Mental Health Support
Image via bbc
As well as the support that your university will be able to offer you, there are also many organisations who have dedicated phone lines, email addresses and walk in centres where you can get the help you need. These include:
Stories of Students With Mental Health Issues
Still worried? Whatuni spoke to two graduates who turned to their institution’s mental health support service: Sayem studied
in London and Lindy studied Media Studies at law . Southampton Solent University
What prompted you to seek mental health support?
Sayem: "I sought mental health support after an incident where I had a massive falling out with a mate of mine after having too much to drink. I think this was the icing on the cake made from all the pressure I was putting myself under to do well on my course."
Lindy: "I first decided to seek help as I'd had depression at that point for about three years officially, and I was having issues with my boyfriend and life generally and needed to talk things through."
Did you know your institution offered mental health support?
Sayem: "I knew about the counselling service because of posters around the place."
Lindy: " I think I knew there was a counselling service but I probably went out of my way to look for it as I'd had it before at college and independently."
Was the service easy to access?
Sayem: "Yes – I had a walk-in for my first appointment and we did weekly sessions after that. They were always great about timetabling me and letting me know if any problems came up."
Lindy: "It was really easy to access and I didn’t wait long for my first session. After that I had sessions every week for about a year."
What support were you offered?
Sayem: "I had cognitive behaviour therapy sessions. This was just really a chat, some back and forth between me and the counsellor, to figure out where I was going wrong."
Lindy: "I had an hour of counselling once a week."
Did you find it helpful?
Sayem: "I thought it was very helpful; it was getting to the root of what was wrong with me and I walked away with concrete steps that helped me deal with problems. I felt it was pretty positive, and it was the first time I properly engaged with mental health services. I'm glad I did it as I now know it's not as scary as I first thought."
Lindy: "I would say it was one of my most positive experiences of mental health support. It kept me sane at a time when I had no family support and kept me at uni when I felt like just giving up."
We really hope we’ve helped ease your mind about any concerns you might have had regarding mental health care at university, but if you’re still unsure, why not ask a teacher, a friend or a relative about their experiences?
Alternatively, you can call your chosen university’s student support team in advance – they’ll be more than willing to talk you through the services they offer before you start.
Time to put those fears to rest and start looking forward to the best three years ever!
For more information on how to cope with mental health issues, read our dedicated advice here.