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Mental Health at University

University life is unique in many ways. It’s probably the only time you’ll enjoy the freedom of being able to wake up when you want, go out when you like and do what you please without any additional responsibilities. Add to that she sheer number of people you meet, the access to such extensive learning, and the opportunity to join a huge selection societies and clubs, and university seems like the perfect recipe for an incredible few years.

But university can also be a very stressful experience for students. The combined pressures of studying, meeting new people, often navigating a completely new city away from family, and managing finances can take their toll mentally. It may not come as a surprise then that a study conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2013 found that 92% of students identified as having had feelings of mental distress.

The study also found that one in five students considered themselves to have a mental health problem, and 13% even had suicidal thoughts. But mental health at university is still a largely undiscussed issue. Students are widely assumed to be having the time of their lives, and for those that aren’t, there often isn’t a lot of help available.

There is a certain stigma attached to mental health problems at university, with many assuming that genuine mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are merely overreactions to the typical stresses of student life. As a result, students who seek help and are told ‘not to worry’ can feel isolated and misunderstood.

Challenging the stigma

There are a number of charities and organisations working to break down the stigma of mental health at university. The charity Student Minds works towards giving students “the skills, knowledge and confidence to talk about their mental health and look out for their peers”. They run campaigns to change the state of mental health, and offer student support groups to give students with mental health difficulties access to an environment where they can talk openly about their issues.

The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) is also working to raise awareness of mental health issues at university, and promote the mental health of people who live and work in Higher Education. University Mental Health & Wellbeing Day will take place on 3rd of March this year, working in partnership with universities up and down the country to run events ranging from yoga and meditation to conversation starters. You can join the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #UniMentalHealthDay.

Seeking help

Universities are slowly improving their services in a bid to help students who are struggling with mental health issues. Universities UK recently updated with guidance to universities on how best to support students experiencing mental health difficulties. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said:

“Universities take student mental health very seriously... Some students are reluctant to disclose their difficulties, which can also present a challenge for universities seeking to support them. However, the development of policies and anti-stigma campaigns is now beginning to address both these issues.

“The challenge for universities is to build on the support services and external links that exist already, enabling referral to the NHS where necessary. It is important to remember that university wellbeing services, however excellent, cannot replace the specialised care that the NHS provides for students with mental illnesses.”

Ieso’s discreet online talking therapy has been clinically validated by the NHS. If you’re in need of someone to talk to about your mental health while at university, check our website to see if our one-to-one online cognitive behavioural therapy is available for free in your area.

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