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Taking care of mental health at university

Students are susceptible to stress, anxiety and other psychological difficulties, and the Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating the problem. To mark #WorldMentalHealthDay, Mutahara Gofur from The London Institute of Banking & Finance offers five tips on looking after mental wellbeing while studying at university:

We’re often told that university will be the best time of our lives. But even the good times can have some lows. 

When university experience doesn’t meet expectations, it may take a toll on mental health. Expectations of university may differ drastically from the reality, particularly, when starting or going back during Covid-19.

Mental health problems among university students are more common than you might think.

Research by MHFA England earlier this year found that 34% of students reported needing professional help for psychological difficulties.

Covid-19 and students’ mental health

Covid-19 has been challenging for everyone and reshaped the structure of university.

Social distancing rules and online classes may stop students from experiencing the vibrant social life they expected. That might make them feel isolated and alone.

But universities have a responsibility to adapt to new ways of teaching as well as to prioritise students’ wellbeing. Here are some tips that universities can give to their students.

1. Identify the underlying issue

In recent years, there has been a more open dialogue about mental health, to help break the stigma and encourage people to seek help.

Even so, mental health-related difficulties are personal and people may still struggle to be open – especially if it’s something they’re experiencing for the first time.

If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, try to pinpoint what your triggers are. Common stresses at university include:

  • financial situation
  • living arrangements
  • balancing studying with a job
  • not enjoying a course or struggling with the workload.

2. Look for financial support

If your financial situation is troubling you, speak to your university. Find out whether you’re entitled to any bursaries, or if they can help you find a job.

Most universities have a student advice centre to support students with various issues and signpost them to relevant services.

Some students need a part-time job to supplement their living costs, but it’s often difficult balancing your degree and working. But lots of universities have Student Unions which provide jobs that fit around studying hours.

If you’re falling behind on your course due to your job, speak to your personal tutor and inform them about your circumstances.

3. Talk to your personal tutor

If you’re struggling with your mental health – especially during the coronavirus pandemic when everything is online – it’s important to develop a rapport with your personal tutor.

They can help you navigate your course and even help you apply for mitigating circumstances, if you need to.

4. Find out how your university can support your wellbeing

In recent years, universities have become more aware of mental health care and many now provide services. For example, here at LIBF we have a:

  • qualified counsellor available for students
  • an assistance helpline available for staff and students, and
  • trained mental health first aiders available in all buildings

Utilise all the support that you can find and give feedback to your university.

If you feel like your university needs to have better mental health services – or do more to improve students’ social lives during Covid-19 – tell them.

Some universities will ask you to complete feedback forms throughout your course, so you can provide your feedback anonymously.

5. Register with your GP and get help from support services

If you haven’t already, register with your local GP. If your mental health deteriorates, they can help you decide on a suitable treatment plan or refer you to a counselling service.

If you – or someone you know – are struggling, there are several services available with free resources and helplines:

It’s important to remember that your mental health is a priority – just as much as your physical health. There is no shame in having a mental illness or having a bad mental health day.

But you owe it to yourself to make the most of your time at university. And that’s only possible if you’re proactive about protecting your mental wellbeing.

Mutahara Gofur from The London Institute of Banking & Finance

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