Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health problems among students.
Anxiety is what we feel when we’re worried, tense or afraid, particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to.
See our pages on anxiety for more information and help.
This is the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem among students.
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.
See our pages on depression for more information and help.
Incidents of suicide at universities are more highly reported than in the general population and suicide can have a significant impact on university communities.
Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.
If you are feeling suicidal, you might be scared or confused by these feelings. But you are not alone. Many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime.
There are steps you can take right now to stop yourself from acting on your suicidal thoughts. Everyone is different, so it's about finding what works best for you
If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency and you need to reach out for urgent help.
If you want to know how to support someone who might be having suicidal thoughts you can access free online training from Zero Suicide Alliance which is designed specifically for students.
Planning your healthcare
If you're currently receiving treatment for a mental health problem and you register with a new GP, the support you get may change. You may have new assessments and your new GP or Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) may advise on a new treatment plan. The NHS has more information about registering with a new GP as a student.
To minimise the disruption, it can help to plan early - even as soon as you've chosen a course or accepted a place. Talk to your current GP or CMHT about:
the move and the implications for your treatment
how your medical notes will be transferred and what they can do to ensure that your new GP understands your medical needs
reviewing any medication you are taking that may affect your studying
write a summary letter about your medical history for your new GP.
The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) are a network of mental health specialists working in the Higher/Further education sector and can provide more information on telling your institution about a diagnosed mental health problem, and what protection you have.
Managing your finances
Studying is likely to affect your personal finances. The money you receive and the way you get it may change. It is important to think about how you will pay for essentials like food, housing, tuition fees and course costs such as books and other equipment.
The change in financial situation can be particularly difficult if you are a mature student who is used to earning a full-time wage, or if you have children or dependents that you support financially. You can find information about extra financial support you may be entitled to here.
Regardless of your situation, it can be useful to create a weekly or termly budget plan to help you keep track of your incomings and outgoings. Pick a method that you will find easy to use such as an app or spreadsheet - there are lots of templates online available for use.
Managing your studies
You may be returning to education after a break or continuing on from school or college. Whatever your situation, you may find that you have more responsibility for your own study than you have been used to. This can provide flexibility in how you structure your day but getting used to planning your own schedule can be a challenge.
Many colleges and universities run study skills sessions for new students. These can be a great way of learning time management and effective planning strategies as well understanding some of the possible requirements from your new course, such as how to write a research proposal or reference other studies correctly. Study skills tutors often work within the library setting, so consider visiting them when you start your course.
What if things don’t go to plan?
Sometimes things don't go as you expected. This can be difficult, but it happens to everyone. You might find it helpful to:
have a plan B such as an alternate work schedule if your day or week's routine is disrupted
proactively schedule in 'spare time' so that you can catch up if necessary
talk to your tutor about extensions or flexible arrangements in advance, so that you feel comfortable talking to them if things are not going to plan.
Meeting new people
Being around so many other students creates a great opportunity to meet like-minded people. If you’re finding it hard to meet new people, remember many other students will feel the same way. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Volunteering can help you meet people who share an interest with you. Your institution may have students groups or a Students' Union who may be able to help you do this.
Clubs or societies can be a great way to get to know people and create a work-life balance. See what's on offer when you enrol or, check in with your student representative, committee or Students' Union at any time.
Course forums or email groups can keep you connected if you're studying online. Getting to know people online can also make it easier if the course has events like study weekends where you will all meet.
Meeting new people can seem more of a challenge if you feel less like those around you.
If you’ve experienced time in care prior to studying, you may feel like you have less in common with your classmates. In addition to the above tips, it can be useful to connect with groups outside of your place of study to help strengthen your support network.
If you’re LGBTQIA+ then take a look at these Student Minds pages for some advice on starting conversations and what to do if you experience discrimination. See our LGBTQIA+ & Mental Health pages for information on where to get support.
Living with other students
If you've moved away from home, it’s likely that at some point you’ll have to organise your own housing. You may not always feel you have a lot of choice, especially during the first year when university halls are the main option for most students, but you could think about if you want to live:
with people who you can talk to about your mental health
with a smaller number of people, perhaps in a smaller house or block of halls
closer to campus or somewhere with better transport links
near shops and amenities to make it easier to be sociable
somewhere quiet with more privacy.
Renting a house or flat for the first time is a big deal, but there’s plenty of advice and support out there. Check with your place of study if they provide advice about accommodation, managing landlords and signing contracts. You can also contact Citizens Advice, about student housing.
Lots of students feel lonely. Social media can give the impression that all of your friends are hanging out together and having the best time, all the time. This comparison can make you feel more lonely and loneliness can have a big impact on your mental health.
- Take social media with a pinch of salt. People usually only post photos of the positive times on social media, giving a false impression of how great things are.
- Consider how you could use social media to have a positive effect on your mental health. Joining online groups such as Side by Side, a supportive online space where you can share experiences and listen to others who have similar mental health issues, can help you feel part of a community. Take a look at the social media accounts of mental health charities such as those mentioned at the end of this guide as many have platforms to network and share experiences in a safe way.
- Try peer support. There might be groups at your institution specifically for students who are experiencing mental health problems. Student Minds run peer support programmes and mental health campaign groups at universities across the UK.
Many students feel lonely. Even if you are shy, remember your peers are often in the same situation and appreciate you talking to them. Perhaps you could:
- talk to someone, or just say hello, before and after each lecture or class
- meet classmates in the library to plan a joint piece of work
- chat to people you are living with while making food in a shared kitchen.
For more tips, see this video on coping with loneliness as a student.
You might feel like there is a lot of pressure to do well academically, as well as pressure to be sociable. In particular, mature students often say that they feel under stress if they’re struggling financially and they’ve invested money in the course as part of a career change, which can create extra pressure to do well.
Try to build up strategies to manage stress before it gets too much, so it's easier to respond to additional pressure – for example, around exam times.
Try out some mindfulness exercises. There is a lot of evidence to suggest these can be really helpful, especially for managing stress. Take a look at our mindfulness pages for more information.
Try using a planner. This can help to keep track of deadlines and key commitments and organise your study.
Take time out to relax. Getting away from your desk, even for short periods of time, can help keep you calm.
Keep an eye on social commitments to avoid overloading your schedule around deadlines and exams.
Try online support and apps. There are lots of apps and websites available that can help you to manage your stress levels, such as those offering a daily meditation or mindfulness practice.
Looking after your physical health
Looking after your physical health will help you stay healthy and maintain concentration to study well.
Get good sleep. If you're tired, your worries can get blown out of proportion. Getting into a regular sleep routine can help you stay on top of university life.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel well and think clearly. See our pages on food and mood for more tips.
Exercise regularly. Keeping active can help you improve your mental health. Even gentle exercise, like yoga or swimming, can help you relax and manage stress.
Coping in an alcohol or drugs culture
While alcohol is often associated with the student lifestyle, you don't have to drink if you don't want to. Students' Unions and student-led groups offer a range of social events and activities that are alcohol free.
Alcohol can worsen depression and cause other health problems.
Try to ensure you have some days without drinking.
Be careful if you’re taking medication, as it's usually recommended not to drink or to limit the amount you do drink, while taking it.
Having a friend around when you are out, or establishing a buddy system, can help to keep you safe when you are drinking or engaged in drug use. Student Minds has further tips on staying safe here.
Don't accept drinks from someone you don't know and always keep your drinks with you to help avoid your drink being spiked (with drugs or alcohol). Take a look here for further information about drink spiking and what to do if you think your drink has been spiked.
Support if you are in a crisis
A crisis is any situation in which you feel you need urgent help. For example, you might feel in crisis if:
you are having suicidal thoughts and feelings
you are having thoughts about harming yourself or someone else
you have seriously hurt yourself
Everyone experiences a crisis in their own way. You might feel that your mental health has been steadily deteriorating for some time, or perhaps something's happened in your life that's shaken your stability.
You might have a good idea what's likely to trigger a crisis for you, or you might not know what's causing your feelings. But whatever your situation, if you start to feel unable to cope, or to keep yourself safe, it's important to ask for help.
Take a look at our page on crisis services for information on how to get help in a crisis.
Support on your course
If you do become unwell, it's important for you (or someone you trust) to explain the situation to your academic supervisor, tutor, or a welfare staff member, as soon as possible. Even if you have previously explained that you have a mental health problem, they may not be aware that you're feeling worse. The sooner you let them know, the easier it is for them to help you get support with your academic work.
You may be able to:
receive special dispensation when your work is marked
There are also informal adjustments that can be made to support you in staying well. For example requesting that meetings are at a particular time of day that suits when your energy levels are at their highest, or in a particular location where you feel most able to concentrate.
Take time out from your course
Each course is different in the way it approaches taking time off from studying. It may be possible to:
defer the course for a time
repeat a term or year
Your university or college may need a letter from your doctor to explain how your mental health is affecting your studies. The process can sometimes be daunting so having support from a friend or family member can really help during this time.
Taking a flexible approach to studying
Your university might be able to make adjustments to how you study. For example, you may be able to:
complete your degree part-time
have longer deadlines for coursework
get more time in exams
It may help to start by thinking about what you would need to make it easier to continue your studies.
Thinking about alternatives
You might feel that continuing your course isn't right for you, and that's okay. It could be useful to think about some alternatives:
trying a different course or location
studying a vocational course or apprenticeship
taking a gap year
starting work or re-starting work
Support from your place of study
The college or university disability service
Your university or college may have a disability support service who can support you to manage any health problem that affects your studies. This includes both physical and mental health problems.
You can arrange a meeting with this service to discuss any challenges that you might have with your studies, and look at what support the service can provide. The service may be able to arrange:
mentoring – this might be with another student or a disability specialist
study skills training – such as courses in coping with stress or planning work
specific arrangements – for your assessments or exams
you may also be eligible for financial support through the Disabled Students Allowance
The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) is a good source of information about the support you could be entitled to.
Your college or university counselling service
Most universities and colleges have a counselling service providing support to students for free. They can offer advice about your circumstances independently of your academic tutors or your GP.
You can usually self-refer to a university or college counselling service, so you don't need to see your GP first or have a medical diagnosis.
Student led support
Your place of study may have a Students' Union with a welfare officer or a Student Advice Service offering free and independent advice or support. They can also refer you to external support.
Student Advice Services are staffed by elected student representatives who have received additional training, or Students' Union staff members who may have experience or training in specific areas such as law or mental health. Students' Unions and the staff they employ are independent of the university or college, although usually based in the same buildings.
An academic contact
Your university or college should assign you an academic supervisor or tutor to provide support and advice about your studies. If your tutor knows about your mental health, they may be able to support you in your studies, and help you access further academic support.
Some tutors will be proactive about meeting their students but with others, you may have to contact them to arrange a meeting. Remember, they are there to support you, so don't feel shy about taking the first step.
Talking to your tutor early can help ensure that the right support is in place so that if things do get tricky, they understand how they can support you.
Your department may have a welfare or disability liaison who you can talk to about your mental health, if you don't feel comfortable talking to your tutor.
Each place of study will offer slightly different support, so it’s always worth taking a look at its website to see what’s available to you.
Support outside your place of study
Your GP can support you by:
referring you to local services
prescribing medication where necessary
helping you access treatment for your mental health
If you don't have a diagnosis but are concerned about your mental health, you can always speak to your GP about this. See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for more information on support from your GP.
You can also find more advice from the NHS on student health on NHS Choices Live Well.
For international students who are unfamiliar with the National Health Service (NHS) and how to access support, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has some useful information on looking after yourself and how to get medical treatment should you need it.
Organisations and charities
There are some charities and organisations who specifically work with students, and could offer you support:
Student Minds offer support for students and run peer support groups across the country.
Students against depression offer information and advice for students experiencing depression.
Nightline confidential telephone support offered overnight at universities across the country.
Young Minds offer information and support to young people experiencing mental health problems.
Voluntary organisations and charities also provide support to students and specific groups, as well as members of public. For example, you might want support from:
Citizens Advice – gives support on practical issues like housing, debt and benefits.
The Samaritans – available 24 hours a day by telephone or email, to talk about anything that's upsetting you.
Local Mind – local Minds offer a range of support services in local areas. Get in touch with one to find out more.
When you experience a mental health problem it can feel as if no one understands. Peer support brings together people who've had similar experiences to support each other. Many students find that meeting others with experience of mental health difficulties helps them feel less alone and makes it easier to talk about their own mental health.
Your place of study might run peer support groups on campus, in your halls or on your course.
You can usually self-refer to peer support programmes, so you don't need to see a GP first or have a diagnosis.
Check out your college or university's counselling service, Students' Union or Student Minds peer support programmes for more information about peer support near you.
Friends and family
University friends and housemates
If your friends or housemates have been worried about how you are doing, talking to them might be a relief for all of you. If you are worried about how they will react, talk to them about this – they may appreciate your advice on how they can help and what they can to do to be supportive.
Student Minds provides advice and support for students supporting friends.
"Telling people around me that I'm struggling will help, as they can help me feel happy."
Friends or family back home
If you have moved away from home, it can be difficult to keep in contact with friends and family, particularly if you are an international student. Even if you have not moved, you may not spend as much time with your family and friends as you used to – you may just have less time than before, are discovering new friends, or may just want to be more independent while studying.
However it can be useful, especially if you're feeling low or experiencing poor mental health, to get support from old friends and your family.
Some ways to ensure you can keep in contact while also having an independent or new lifestyle are:
using email or social media – even quick forms of contact, like forwarding jokes, allow you to keep in touch
writing a letter or card – these can feel more personal and be nice to receive
taking time to talk – set aside a time each week to chat to a close friend or family
inviting friends to stay so you can show them around – they may then do the same for you
keeping people up to date with what you are doing – so they feel they are still part of your life – you don't have to tell them everything, just let them know what's going on.