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Recognising changes to your mental health at university

Recognising changes to your mental health at university

By the time you go to university, you’ve some hopes and dreams to pack in your suitcase. Freedom beckons; your future awaits. For most people, seeking support for mental illness doesn’t even figure in the equation. University is fun, right? It’s the time of your life! But what if it isn’t…


Some university students are quick to make the dash for independence. Others miss the structure of a family home. Yet it’s likely that students won’t know if they’re prone to mental illness or if a bout of depression is a temporary side-effect of change.

However, regardless of whether there’s a definite trigger - like a bereavement, for example, or you just don’t know why you feel the way you do, the signs are the same.

Not just a mood swing

If you feel persistently unhappy or permanently worried, you might well be suffering from depression or anxiety. Other tell-tale signs include:

  • Not feeling motivated to study, socialise, or do things they usually enjoy
  • Dropping out of lessons and becoming withdrawn
  • Losing or gaining a lot of weight
  • Loss of interest in sex or becoming promiscuous
  • Being unable to sleep or sleeping too much

Any change to your regular behaviour can be a sign that something is wrong. At university, it’s easy for an illness to slip through the cracks. But if you’re venturing into areas that make you feel worried, unhappy or out of control, or you just don’t seem to enjoy university as much as other people, speak to someone about it.

You’re not alone

Research tells us that almost 80% of students have had mental health problems in the past year. The growing problem might not appear to be visible on your campus but dig deep enough and you’ll find other sufferers.

How to get help

If you realise for yourself that something is wrong, the first thing to do is tell someone. If a prompt has come from a close friend or family member, listen to their concerns.

GP or student welfare

If you’re mixed up about your feelings and want professional guidance, speak to your doctor. Alternatively, find out if there’s a welfare officer on-site at your university. Their judgement on your condition can help to determine a positive course of action.

Online cognitive behavioural therapy

If you’re already familiar with mental illness and/or can identify triggers or behavioural problems, find a therapist. You can see someone face-to-face or, if you prefer, book online sessions instead. This is certainly more convenient around lectures.

Long-term plans

Don’t let a mental illness command your time at university. Take time to understand your feelings and, with the right help, you can identify the problem and develop techniques to overcome it. Your time at university is likely to be much brighter if you practice self-care.

You might also like to read Coping with Anxiety at University.

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