Leaving home for the first time can be daunting, but it’s also a thrilling adventure. Living the student lifestyle can be an adjustment, and it’s important to have survival tools in place to support you. With the pressures of deadlines, finances and socialising, it’s vital to keep checking in with yourself and take time for self-care.
About students and mental health
In recent years, mental health for students has become a growing concern. The demands of balancing academic work with a new lifestyle can take its toll on young minds. Transitioning from living at home to independently can be overwhelming, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself.
Common challenges for student mental health
When it comes to mental health, there are a lot of common themes among students. The good news is, there’s also a lot of empathy and understanding around these topics too, both from your peers and from supportive services. Here are some of those common challenges:
- Finances – Managing your own money for the first time can seem challenging. For advice on budgeting your funds, click here.
- New relationships – being surrounded by new people can feel overwhelming. It’s difficult not to have your emotional support network around you. Remember that these new friendships are exciting, and you can create life-long bonds.
- Acacadic pressure – the fast-approaching deadlines can be daunting. Look into ways of staying organised throughout the week. Invest in calendars and planners to stay on top of your workload.
- Homesickness – just about everyone living away from home will experience feelings of homesickness. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this. Keep regular contact with family and schedule to go home as and when you need to. Moreover, if you feel worried about your new location, read our post: A Guide To Staying Safe in London.
- Isolation – it’s easy to lock yourself away when feeling overwhelmed. Try to surround yourself with a good circle of friends and get outside for fresh air.
- Sleep – with the excitement of the new social life, it’s common to fall into a poor sleeping pattern. Aim to get 7-8 hours per night and take short naps when needed.
- Confidence – when starting something new, it’s normal to experience a dip in confidence. Remind yourself you deserve to be at university just like everyone else. Consider writing affirmations to help support your self-esteem.
What helps students’ mental health?
When struggling with mental health, it can be tricky to find ways to handle and cope with it. That’s why we’ve put together a short list of ideas and systems that can be really helpful as a starting point:
- Short-term goals – managing expectations of yourself can ease the pressure. Celebrate the quick wins, whether it’s starting an essay or doing your laundry, and reward yourself.
- Create lists – again, staying on top of things you have to do can reduce stress. And what’s more satisfying than ticking off that thing you’ve been meaning to do?
- Talk about it – keep having conversations, even if they are difficult. It’s vital not to bottle in your emotions. You might even find others feel the same as you.
- Time management – Plan out your week well to ensure you fit in what it is you need to do. If you know you have a social on a Wednesday, then allocate time to do work the day before. Be realistic about what you can do and when.
- Reach out – nowadays, there is a lot of support available to help you. From advice, a shoulder to cry on and action plans, every university has it. Make the most of the services available and reach out to staff.
- Physical activity – arguably one of the best ways to increase productivity and reduce anxiety is an active lifestyle. Prioritise getting outside for walks or runs and soak up the world around you. Or if you prefer being indoors, practise yoga and try the local gym.
What is the most common mental health problem in students?
- Anxiety – one of the most common mental health issues among students is anxiety. Feelings of anxiety occur when we worry, especially about things in the future. If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, practice breathing techniques to help stay in the present.
- Depression – another mental health issue experienced by students is depression. Depression can lead to a loss of interest in things you’d usually find joy in and a persistent low mood.
How many UK students suffer from mental illness?
The Office for National Statistics surveyed in 2021, revealed that 37% of first-year students reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a 2022 study, the charity Student Minds revealed 57% of students recorded a mental health struggle.
Warning signs to look out for:
- Weight loss
- Change in sleep patterns
- Mood swings
- Withdrawing from social circles
How to support a friend
If a friend suffering from mental health at university opens up to you, it could be the first time they have told someone. To ensure they feel supported, have an open conversation with them, as a conversation can go a long way.
Listen without judgement – it can be difficult to open up about a particular issue, so make your friend feel like this is a safe place.
Learn more about what they’re telling you – if you’re struggling to understand or relate to how they are feeling, try doing some research to learn how to process the information.
Share resources available – whether it’s a contact at the university or someone else, share any information you have.
Support yourself – it can be hard to take on someone else’s worries, so be sure you are getting the emotional support you need too.
How to optimise your university Accommodation for your mental health
Whether you’re staying in studio accommodation, a house share or halls, you can make your space unique.
If given the option, consider a room which receives a lot of natural light. The increase in vitamin D, especially throughout winter, has a positive effect on both your body and mind. You can even place your desk underneath the window to maximise the effects.
An obvious but important one. Keeping your space tidy keeps your mind tidy too. At university, your bedroom is your haven, and you want to free this space from feeling of stress.
Create a Relaxed setting
Personalise your space to make it as comfortable as possible. Consider adding soothing colours for your bedding and dim lighting for nighttime. Additionally, bring life into the room with plants, which are well-known to eliminate stress.
Your bedroom should be a place of escape. Aim to complete academic work outside of this space, in either the library or a coffee shop. Another measure you can take is reducing your screen time in bed so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
For more inspiration on decorating your student accommodation, read our guide: How to Decorate Your Student Room (Without Losing Your Deposit!) Plus, if you have any more queries regarding student accommodation, check out our frequently asked questions.
University Mental Health Day
Universities have now created a safe network for students to open up about their struggles. Mental Health is actively encouraged to be spoken about, and this is a great step in tackling the stigma. University Mental Health Day will take place on Thursday 14th March 2024.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.