Studying successfully with a mental health diagnosis

If mental health difficulties are affecting your ability to study, these tips can help to put you in a better position to succeed and manage your wellbeing.

Mental health difficulties can sometimes have a big impact on concentration, motivation and our ability to focus on the tasks we need to complete. The impact of medication can also impact on your ability to focus across the day.

But with the right support and help, there is every reason to believe in your ability to be successful as a student.

Below are some top tips to try. Don’t worry if you have been at university a while and have not made these arrangements yet. You can usually put them in place at any point in your course.

1. Consider applying for the Disabled Students Allowance

The Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is there to cover the cost of additional support that you might need, due to your mental health difficulty, during your time at university. This could include:

  • specialist equipment
  • non-medical helpers
  • any extra travel or other disability-related costs related to your studies.

This is provided on top of any existing student finance and you do not need to pay it back. Read the UK Government’s guidance for more information about how DSA works, or if you are a full time undergraduate Welsh student, read more information from Student Finance Wales.

Whether you decide to apply for DSA is your choice. If you need support in applying, your university mental health or disability team are usually a good source of support. They will help clarify the process and can answer any questions that you may have. Contact your university mental health or disability service to arrange an appointment.

2. Talk to your university about reasonable adjustments

If you have a diagnosed mental health difficulty you will be eligible for reasonable adjustments to your course. This is the case whether you apply for DSA or not.

Reasonable adjustments will vary but can include:

  • having additional time to complete assessments
  • extra time in timed exams
  • alternative assessments.

Reasonable adjustments are there to support you to achieve your potential and reduce the impact of your mental health difficulty.

At most universities, to receive reasonable adjustments, you will need to provide recent medical evidence of your diagnosis, such as a GP letter or letter from your care team. In most cases you will need to submit a copy of this evidence to your university mental health or disability team.They will then contact you to consider what adjustments you might need.

Make an appointment with your university mental health or disability service as soon as possible.You do not have to wait until term begins.

3. Think about what has worked with study before and what hasn’t been helpful

If you are attending university you will have engaged in some form of study previously. This is really important knowledge that you can use.

Think about what worked before and what didn’t. Were there times that your mental health difficulty made it difficult to study and work effectively and how did you cope with this? Think about what you need around you to work to your best and put these things in place.

If you feel worried about this, consider talking to your personal tutor or university mental health or disability adviser. They may have some useful suggestions.

4. Speak to your personal tutor

Although your personal tutor will usually not be a mental health professional, they can be a great source of support during your studies.

If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be helpful to let them know that you have a mental health difficulty. You do not have to share in great detail, but letting them know will help them to understand your experience.

You might want to discuss with them any particular concerns you have about your studies. This might include thinking about how you get support if you are struggling with your work.

5. Arrange a tour of the library

Whilst a lot of resources are now online, it is likely that you will need to use your university library at some point. You might also wish to use the library as a place to study (this can be helpful in order to make your bedroom a place for relaxation and sleep).

Speak to library staff about arranging a tour of the library. Otherwise, there may be an online option on your university intranet. Libraries are often where additional academic support can be found to support you on your course.

6. Find your academic support centre

Find out where your academic or study skills support is located and how you access it. As mentioned above, this can often be found in the library.

It can be really helpful if you are struggling with a particular element of your academic work. They may have information about how to improve motivation and concentration with your studies. These are often areas that can be affected by mental health difficulties.

7. Look for a course specific society

Your student’s union may have a specific society for students on your course. Joining one can help you get to know other people on your course, and give access to social events with people with a similar interest.

To find out if your course has a society, visit your student’s union website or contact them to ask.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek support

If you are struggling with your mental health or your studies, seek support as soon as possible. This might mean asking your personal tutor to help you understand an assignment topic or getting support from the mental health service.

Either way, the earlier you seek help, the better.Your university will want to support you to succeed and to overcome any challenges to your learning.

Page last reviewed: October 2022