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Student Mental Health – How to Get Help When They Need It

Mental health problems are as common among students as they are in the general population.

But it’s not just students who have a diagnosed mental health condition that can benefit from counselling.

Alan Percy, head of counselling at the University of Oxford, says: “A lot of difficulties are not caused by medical problems, but by normal life problems, such as family or relationship issues, or anxiety about their work.

“While these problems are distressing, through counselling we can help students to understand them, and then suggest strategies for dealing with their feelings.”

When to get help

It’s normal to feel down, anxious or stressed from time to time, but if these feelings affect your daily activities, including your studies, or don’t go away after a couple of weeks, get help.

Signs of depression and anxiety include:

  • feeling low
  • feeling more anxious or agitated than usual
  • losing interest in life
  • losing motivation

Some people also:

  • put on or lose weight
  • stop caring about the way they look or about keeping clean
  • do too much work
  • stop attending lectures
  • become withdrawn
  • have sleep problems

Where to go for help

Talk to someone

Telling someone how you feel, whether it’s a friend, counsellor or doctor, may bring an immediate sense of relief.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust first, such as a friend, member of your family or a tutor.

This is especially important if your studies are being affected. Many mild mental health problems can be resolved this way.

University counselling services

Many colleges and most universities have a free and confidential in-house counselling service you can access, with professionally qualified counsellors and psychotherapists.

You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment in the counselling service section of your university’s website. This free service in universities is available to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Many universities also have a mental health adviser who can help you access the support you need.

As well as counselling or therapy, you may also be entitled to “reasonable adjustments” such as extra time in exams, extensions on coursework, and specialist mental health mentor support.

Student-led services

Many student unions also offer student-led services. Although the students involved aren’t qualified counsellors, you may prefer to talk about problems such as stress and depression with another student.

Online self-help

There are also online self-help services you may like to explore, such as NHS Choices’ Moodzone and the Students Against Depression website.

When to see your GP (* physician)

For more serious or longer-lasting mental health symptoms, see your GP as you may need prescribed treatment or referral to a specialist.

If you have or develop a mental health condition that requires treatment, it’s important to arrange continuity of care between your college doctor and your family GP.

A mental health adviser can support this communication. Your condition may worsen if moving between university and home results in a gap in treatment.

Therapy and counselling

Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers an opportunity to explore the underlying issues of your unhappiness or any worries you have in a safe environment, including helping you develop ways of coping.

As well as university or college counselling services, you might be able to refer yourself for NHS counselling. Search for psychological therapy services** in the UK to find out what’s available in your area.

The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN)** represents the network of mental health advisers working in higher education dedicated to providing practical support to UK students experiencing mental health difficulties.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

At all UK universities, you have the opportunity to apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)**.

Your mental health adviser can help you apply for a DSA, but you will need to provide evidence of a long-term mental health condition.

The DSA pays for:

  • specialist equipment, such as a computer, if you need it because of your mental health condition or another disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel as a result of your mental health condition or disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

Even if you decide not to apply for a DSA, the mental health adviser will still be able to let you know what support is available.

Drugs, drink and mental health in students

If you’re feeling low or stressed, you may be tempted to drink more alcohol or relax by smoking cannabis.

Consider how this may make you feel in the longer term though, as your mood could slip, making you feel a lot worse.

Some cannabis users can have unpleasant experiences, including confusion, hallucinationsanxiety and paranoia.

There’s also growing evidence that long-term cannabis use can double your risk of developing a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

Ecstasy and amphetamines can also bring on schizophrenia, and amphetamines can induce other forms of psychosis.

Any underlying mental disorder could be worsened by drug and alcohol use.

Read more articles about drugs.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States





Thor: Ragnarok is Sensory Friendly Twice in November at AMC

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of Thor: Ragnarok on Saturday, November 11th at 10am and Tuesday November 14th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are typically $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Still to come in November: Thor: Ragnarok (Tues 11/14); COCO (Sat 11/25); Justice League (Tues 11/28)

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Editor’s note: Although Thor: Ragnarok has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Can Wealth Be as Big a Parenting Risk-Factor as Poverty?

Many of us are now aware of the damaging long-term effects of growing up in poverty. The stress experienced by adults and kids who struggle to meet their basic needs can put kids at risk for lower academic achievement, health problems and emotional difficulties.

On the other side of the economic spectrum, however, we are finding that kids who grow up in an environment of affluence may also be at risk for negative outcomes. This may seem hard to believe—kids growing up in a prosperous home would seem to have all the advantages. A recent in-depth study into this issue helps us understand that affluence may go hand-in-hand with some parenting practices that may not promote the ideal development for adolescents.

Problematic Parenting

In both situations of poverty and affluence the issue of resources themselves are often not the sole contributor to developmental problems in children. Both poverty and affluence create situations in which parents’ behavior may be altered to the point that they are unable to adequately support their children. In the situation of poverty, the stress of lack of resources often makes it difficult for parents to be as patient, attentive and supportive as they might otherwise be.

In the case of affluence, parents’ behavior is also altered such that they might not be as emotional available or have enough time to spend with kids. The recent study points out two particular issues that seem to be the source of problems for kids.

  • High expectations with conditional love: having high expectations for kids’ behavior, academic performance or sports is not a problem, per se. When high expectations are combined with lack of emotional support and conditional love, they do become problematic.
    • Example: if a child is only valued or loved for what they can accomplish in the classroom or on the sports field, this actually undermines their development. Among affluent families, research finds that 25% of boys and 15% of girls describe themselves as “underachievers.” The obvious implications for children’s emotional development under these circumstances are worrisome.
  • Isolation from parents: both emotional and physical isolation are more common problems among affluent families. Due to kids’ expansive extracurricular activities, families may have little time together. This, coupled with increased physical distance due to larger houses, may create a situation in which adolescents feel increasingly distant from their parents.

The statistics we see among affluent families illustrate the effects of this isolation and conditional love scenarios among teens. Affluent teens have higher rates of clinical depression (25% higher) and substance abuse (15-35% higher) compared to non-affluent groups. Teen girls, in particular, are at risk for depression—20% of affluent teen girls have clinical levels of depression.

In both conditions of poverty and affluence, the types of parental factors that can mitigate the effects of each situation are similar. If parents can remain warm, emotionally responsive, supportive and provide some structure (without becoming a helicopter parent), then kids in both situations are much more likely to have positive futures.

Sensory Friendly Screening of Geostorm Tomorrow Night at AMC

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Geostorm, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Geostorm sensory friendly tomorrow, Tuesday, October 24th at 7pm (local time). Tickets can be as low as $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in November: Thor: Ragnarok (Sat 11/11) and (Tues 11/14); COCO (Sat 11/25); Justice League (Tues 11/28)

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Editor’s note: Geostorm has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly “Mature Audience” screening. Parents should be advised that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for destruction, action and violence.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

My Little Pony: The Movie is Sensory Friendly 2x in October at AMC

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of My Little Pony: The Movie on Saturday, October 14th and October 28th at 10am (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Still to come in October: Geostorm (Tues 10/24); My Little Pony: The Movie (Sat 10/28)

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Editor’s note: Although My Little Pony: The Movie has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some mild action.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Sensory Friendly Screening: Blade Runner 2049 Tomorrow at AMC

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Blade Runner 2049, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Blade Runner 2049, sensory friendly tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in October: My Little Pony: The Movie (Sat 10/14);  Geostorm (Tues 10/24); My Little Pony: The Movie (Sat 10/28)

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Editor’s note: Although Blade Runner 2049 has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

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