Looking after a mental health difficulty at university

High levels of uncertainty around politics, the economy as well as adjusting to, and managing student life, can make it more challenging to manage an existing mental health difficulty. These tips may help you to have as good an experience as possible.

1. Keep an eye on how you are doing

Whatever the nature of your mental health difficulty, you probably know the signs of a flare up in your symptoms.

For instance, it may be important to keep an eye out for your sleep worsening, changes in appetite, or particular behaviours. You may find it helpful to keep a symptom diary or checker and to use any strategies that you know can help you, when you notice these changes.

If you spot these changes and they do not improve after a few days, then it might be useful to speak to health professionals involved in your care. This might be your GP or mental health care team.

Otherwise, if possible, it might help to speak to family, friends or people close to you, to see if they have spotted any changes in your symptoms. You could also ask someone to help you monitor this for a few more days.

2. Prioritise your mental health and wellbeing

It is important to make your mental health and wellbeing a priority. This is important at all times, but particularly during times of uncertainty or change, when we are faced with more challenges than usual.

This might mean:

  • Putting your mental health above your studies, by taking breaks when you need them.
  • Not feeling obliged to engage socially if you need a break
  • Taking a break from social media and the news if it’s making you feel more anxious or worried.

It could be useful to sit and think about what supports your mental health. Write this down and make sure that you prioritise these things as much as possible.

3. Keep in touch with student services

Remember that your university will have a student support service. These teams can usually offer a range of advice and support around mental health and wellbeing and can be a valuable source of support

You might want to consider making an initial appointment. If you’ve already accessed the service, you could book a review appointment.

These teams can usually offer a range of advice and support around mental health and wellbeing and can be a highly valuable source of support.

4. Access NHS Support

Whether you are accessing support from your GP or a mental health care team, it is really important that you continue to attend review appointments and stay on top of any medications that you are taking.

It might be easier when you’re struggling to miss review appointments or run out of medication. Whilst this is understandable, it can have a big impact on your mental health, both in the short and long term.

Think about using a calendar on your phone or laptop to keep track of appointments, or, if possible, ask family or friends to remind you.

5. Use your support network

Your support network might include a few people or might be wide-ranging. It might include family members, friends, flatmates and health professionals such as your GP. It could also include personal tutors, mental health mentors or advisers and other university staff.

Talk to them about any worries you have about managing your mental health at the moment. Friends and family in particular might be able to remind you what has helped you before and support you to do those things.

Building a support network at university

6. Don’t forget about your physical health

Whilst your mental health is a priority, it is important not to forget about looking after your physical health too. The body and the mind are connected so taking care of one will help the other. Things that might be helpful to bear in mind include:

Looking after your physical health can feel challenging, so just do what you can. If you don’t manage them every day, don’t be too critical of yourself – just try again the next day and use the support available to you to help you.

Page last reviewed: November 2022