What support can I get?
There are many different individuals and organisations who can offer you support. If possible, it is helpful to put this support in place when things are going well, so that it is easy for you to ask for help if you start to find things more difficult. Try thinking about who you feel comfortable talking to.
Support from your university
An academic contact
Your university or college should assign you an academic supervisor or tutor to provide support and advice about your studies. If your tutor knows about your mental health, they may be able to support you in your studies, and help you access further academic support.
- Some tutors will be pro-active about meeting their students but with others, you may have to contact them to arrange a meeting. Remember, they are there to support you, so do not feel shy about taking the first step
- Talking to your tutor early can help ensure that the right support is in place so that if things do get tricky, they understand how they can support you
- Your department may have a welfare or disability liaison who you can talk to about your mental health, if you do not feel comfortable talking to your tutor
The college or university disability service
Your university or college may have a disability support service who can support you to manage any health problem that affects your studies. You can arrange a meeting with this service to discuss any challenges that you might have with your studies, and look at what support the service can provide. The service may be able to arrange:
- Mentoring, which may be with a more experienced student, a professor, a disability specialist, etc.
- Study skills training, such as courses in coping with stress or planning work
- Specific arrangements for your assessments or exams
Your college or university counselling service
Most universities have a counselling service providing support to students for free. They can offer advice about your circumstances independently of your academic tutors or your family doctor. You can usually self-refer to a university counselling service, so you don’t need to see your family doctor first or have a medical diagnosis.
Your Students’ Union
Your Students’ Union may have a welfare officer or a Student Advice Service offering free and independent advice or support. They can also refer you to external support. Student Advice Services are staffed by elected student representatives who have received additional training, or Students’ Union staff members who may have experience or training in specific areas such as law or mental health. Students’ Unions and the staff they employ are independent of the university or college, although usually based in the same buildings.
Support outside university
Your family doctor can support you by:
- Prescribing medication
- Referring you to local services
- Helping you access treatment for your mental health
If you do not have a diagnosis but are concerned about your mental health, you can always speak to your family doctor about this.
Organisations and charities
Voluntary organisations and charities provide support to students, as well as members of public. For example, The Samaritans is a charity organisation that gives emotional support through telephone or email, available 24 hours a day to talk about anything that is upsetting you.
When you experience a mental health problem it can feel as if no one understands. Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences to support each other. Many students find that meeting others with experience of mental health difficulties helps them feel less alone and makes it easier to talk about their own mental health.
- Your university might run peer support groups on campus, in your halls, or on your course
- You can usually self-refer to peer support programmes so you do not need to see a family doctor first or have a diagnosis
Friends and family
University friends and housemates
If your friends or housemates have been worried about how you are doing, talking to them might be a relief for all of you. If you are worried about how they will react, talk to them about this – they may appreciate your advice on how they can help and what they can to do to be supportive.
“Telling people around me that I’m struggling will help, as they can help me feel happy”
Friends and family back home
It can be useful to get support from old friends and your family. Try:
- Using email or social media – even quick forms of contact, like forwarding jokes, allow you to keep in touch
- Writing a letter or card – these can feel more personal and be nice for your friends and family to receive
- Taking time to talk – set aside a time each week to chat to a close friend or family
- Inviting friends to stay so you can show them around – they may then do the same for you
- Keeping people up-to-date with what you are doing, so they feel they are still part of your life – you do not have to tell them everything, just let them know what is going on