Beginning your new life as a university student is an incredibly exciting time. It allows you to meet new and interesting people, live independently – often for the first time – and you will undoubtedly have experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
However, university can feel like a huge transition from the familiarity of school, college or working life, bringing with it its own unique set of challenges. From homesickness and money matters, to juggling new relationships and study workloads.
While it’s natural to feel nervous or overwhelmed during this time, it’s important to recognise when your mental wellbeing may be slipping. If these negative feelings begin to affect your daily activities – especially your studies – it’s essential you know where to turn for mental health support.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues at university – just know that you’re certainly not alone. So often students find themselves struggling in silence, but there is plenty of support available, no matter how big or small the problem is.
A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
Talking about your own mental wellbeing can be a daunting and scary thought, but the help available from your friends and family can be invaluable. The sooner you address your worries or concerns, the sooner you start your journey to feeling better. If you’re anxious about how your friends or family might respond, just remember, they are there to support you just as you would be there to support them.
If you feel yourself struggling, telling someone how you feel may bring an immediate sense of relief. Whether that’s a friend, a family member or a tutor, speaking to someone you trust can help resolve a mental health slip, and can often be one of the biggest, most relieving steps towards feeling better.
Talk to Your GP
If talking to someone close to you isn’t an option, or if it hasn’t improved how you’re feeling, it’s vital that you speak to a medical professional to avoid the problem getting any worse.
For many of us our local GP is the first place we will go when we’re feeling unwell – this should also be the case when experiencing mental ill health. If you’ve moved away from your family home, it’s crucial that you register with either your university GP, or a local GP practice close to your new home.
Your doctor can be someone to open up to if you need a chat, and they can also talk you through other options that may be relevant to you, like talking therapies and/or medication.
Speaking to a medical professional about your mental health issues may feel like a daunting step but asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t be afraid to make an appointment!
If you’re anxious about going alone, bring someone along with you, and if you’re nervous about sharing, try writing down what you want to say and handling it over to your doctor to read instead.
University or Students’ Union
Sometimes everyone needs a bit of extra support and guidance during times of transition and change. If you feel you’re struggling to cope, most universities will have free confidential in-house counsellors or wellbeing advisors who can help you through any difficult periods during your time there.
Depending on your university’s student support services, mental health may fall under various sub categories. For example, counselling, disability, or wellbeing services. It’s important that you familiarise yourself with what your university has to offer to ensure you know how and where to seek support if you need it.
If you have an existing mental health problem, it’s also vital you share this with your university. Whether that’s on the application form, during your interview, or when you first arrive – it’s important to inform them to ensure you continue to access the appropriate support when you start your transition into student life.
If you’re looking to understand how and why you’re feeling a certain way, or are looking for a little extra support, there’s a wealth of information online with advice on how to improve your mental wellbeing at the click of a button.
As well as your university offering in-house student support and wellbeing services, they may also offer external online self-help resources free of charge to students. It’s a good idea to speak to your university or visit their website to see what other resources they offer in terms of mental health support.
While self-help resources are not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment, apps and online tools are a fantastic way of helping you understand the issues you’re dealing with, which is in turn a useful step in dealing with them. They may provide a solution in themselves, they may also raise questions that you’d like to explore with a medical professional, or they may supplement other forms of help you receive.
You’re Not Alone
University is a new and exciting chapter in your life, so take it as it comes and remember that your mental health comes before anything else. Remember, this is not something you have to go through alone. By even acknowledging that you need support is a brave step in the right direction.
With the right support network in place, your time at university can be extremely rewarding – don’t let barriers to seeking help stand in the way of achieving your goals!
Written by: Sarah O’Donnell