How to look after your mental health at university 🧠

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What is mental health?

As defined in the national ‘No Health without Mental Health’ policy, mental health is;

“A positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment. Levels of mental health are influenced by the conditions people are born into, grow up in, live and work in.


According to Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, 1 in 4 people experience ill mental health at some point during their lifetime. This is when a person cannot think, feel or act in the way which they want or need.


Mental health at university

In recent years we’ve seen the media label millennials as ‘generation snowflake’, a damaging narrative that both fails to acknowledge the unique pressures this generation face and continues to make mental health a taboo subject.

Over 2.3 million students are studying in UK universities, with many experiencing academic, social and financial pressures.

These pressures can lead to ill mental health if students are not given the right level of support.

Ill mental health can often feel overwhelming if faced alone but with the right level of support, students can learn to manage their stress and anxiety and prevent it from distracting them from their studies.


University Mental Health Day

University Mental Health Day is run jointly by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisors Network (UMHAN) on the first Thursday in March every year.

See how you can get involved with University Mental Health Day or follow #UniMentalHealthDay on social media.

10 top tips for improving student’s mental health

We’ve explored why it’s important to look after your mental health at University, so now here’s a guide to improving mental health for students:

  • As the saying goes, work hard, play hard. It is important to try and maintain a balance between your study and social life.

    It may be helpful to create a timetable to schedule in revision, coursework and independent study time, leaving free slots for meeting up with friends and attending socials.

  • Evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.

    Eating a balanced diet may help to improve your mood, give you more energy and help you think more clearly.

    Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg and drink 6-8 glasses of water each day.

    Here’s some more advice on food to eat when studying.

  • As well as the obvious physical health benefits, regular exercise has positive effects on our mental health too, such as keeping our minds alert and focused and relieving stress through positive endorphins.

  • If you know that another student is struggling with mental health issues at university, point them in the direction of the above resources or grab a coffee together off-campus and have a chat.

  • There are lots of different breathing techniques designed to help you calm down.

    A common one is to inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds.

    The important thing is to exhale for longer than you inhale.

  • Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present instead of living in the past.

    It also teaches us to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without judgement or cause for action.

    In a related blog post about staying healthy in University, NSHSS encourages students to “meditate, do yoga, or experiment with other ways to help ‘turn-off’ your mind as you approach sleep, all without your digital screens,” as getting ample sleep is also an important factor that impacts health and immunity.

  • Close your eyes and try to picture a place where you feel most relaxed, it can be anywhere: inside or outside, real or imaginary.

  • We often find that when we are talking to ourselves, we use very negative language and criticise ourselves in ways we would never do to a friend.

    When you hear this negative voice, try and think about what you would say to a friend in this situation.

  • It can be helpful to keep track of how your mood changes from day to day so that you can spot any patterns that may exist.

  • There are many benefits of writing for students.

    Think of 5 things you are grateful for at the end of each day so that you go to sleep feeling more positive.


Mental health support for students at university on campus:


  • University Well-being Team: physical and mental well-being support
  • University Counselling Services: mental health support
  • University Student Health Centre: physical and mental health support
  • Personal Tutor: wellbeing support
  • Lecturers, Module Leads & Academic Tutors: support with your studies
  • University Career Zone: support with creating your CV, writing cover letters, job hunts and applications.
  • University Student Mentors: support with settling into university
  • Room-mates and peers: talk to your friends for extra support and advice


Mental health support for university students off-campus:


  • Give A Grad A Go: support with CV templates, finding graduate jobsinterview tips, advice on moving to and working in London and lots of other career advice for students.
  • Mind Charity phone: 0300 123 3393 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).
  • Use the NHS 111 online service, or call 111 – Get advice from 111 or ask for an urgent GP appointment if you need help urgently for your mental health, but it’s not an emergency or you’re not sure what to do.
  • NHS Mood Self-Assessment – The NHS offers a free online mood self-assessment which can help students to gain a better understanding of how they have been feeling over the last 2 weeks.
  • Samaritans phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline). Once you graduate you will still have access to your university’s support services as an Alumni, check with your university what this entails.
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