Mental Health at University

Transitioning to University

Heading off to university can be both daunting and exciting - it's a time of experiencing new things and meeting new people. While this might be exciting for some, it can be daunting and nerve-wrecking for others.


Moving away from family and friends to somewhere completely new is a massive step, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly.


Around 83% of the UK undergraduate population is between 16 and 24 years old, an age group that is particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles, with 75% of mental health issues being developed by the age of 25. This means that 75% of adults with mental health disorders started experiencing symptoms by the age of 25 years old! Other studies have shown that 1 in 4 students experience mental health problems while at university.


Some factors which might be contributing to the development of mental health disorders in university students include increased financial strain, the more intense academic strain (in comparison to secondary school), and the absence of the usual support structure (i.e. family, friends, and familiar surroundings).


How to look after your mental health at university

First and foremost, it's about knowing where you can find support. Your university will have a Counselling Service, Student Support Service, or Student Wellness Centre on campus. Have a look around your university's website, ask your tutor or talk to another student. Many universities also have various support groups running such as b-eat eating disorder support groups, which you will be able to access free of charge.


If you are experiencing issues with sleep, depression, anxiety, stress, or anything that might be aided by medication, then it can be helpful to seek advice from your university health service. With being a specialist university health centre, they should be very used to helping students with such issues.


Make use of your tutor - they have likely been working at the university for a number of years, and so if you have any concerns regarding school work, how to manage your time and your studies, how to handle exam pressures and so on, then please talk to them. If you find that you do no get along with your tutor, it may be possible to talk with one of your other lecturers or even seek help from a dedicated tutoring program at your university. Another option could be to team up with a fellow student to share such problems between you. This has the added benefit of creating a peer support network that you can lean on when necessary.


If you are having financial difficulties, there will be a dedicated financial services team at your university that you will be able to access. Remember that these services are designed for students and therefore you should take advantage of them!


If you are entering your university career with an existing mental health disorder, make yourself known to your University mental health team. It might not be that you need their services on an ongoing basis, but if you are introducing yourself at a phase in time when you feel positive, it will be easier to access these services when you aren't feeling so good.


Keep your ongoing support alive - if you find that you get emotional support from your family or friends, then keep the lines of communication open. Just because you have moved away from home does not mean that you can't use your family for support over the phone.


How are universities coping?

Universities are struggling with the rising demands. So many more students are attending University with mental health conditions than ever before, and universities are trying their best to keep up. It is no longer the case that students get ongoing counselling sessions - it is very often the case that sessions are limited to 6 or 10 or 12 (depending on the university).


What some universities are doing is training non-clinical staff in mental health awareness so that students can feel supported in many different areas of their university careers. For example, student accommodation teams are being trained to spot signs of isolation, anxiety, and depression, ensuring that universities can intervene when necessary.


As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at amylaunder.counselling@gmail.com


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