Mental health

Our mental health information will explain the range of common mental health issues and let you know how to access help and support for yourself or others.

Mental health is a term that covers a range of issues, many of which students may face at university. The information below will explain the range of common mental health issues and let you know how to access help and support for yourself or others.

What is mental health?

It is natural to feel happy when something positive happens to you or to feel sad, anxious, angry or scared when faced with something challenging or negative in your life. Good mental health and wellbeing is recognising that it is natural to feel different emotions, but also knowing when you need some help in dealing with life events. Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, and maintaining it should be a priority for everyone.

Mental health problems are conditions that affect the way you think, feel and behave, much like a physical illness only the symptoms are not always visible to or understood by others. If you feel that you:

  • Have mood swings or consistently lower mood
  • Have lost interest in doing things you previously enjoyed
  • Don't want to socialise or spend time with family and friends
  • Have disturbed sleep patterns

It could be an early warning sign of a mental health problem, so if you notice any of these changes, it is important to seek medical advice from your GP so you can access mental health support.

There are many different types of mental health problems and sometimes their symptoms can be very similar, but we have summarised some of the most common problems that can affect students. If you feel that you may be suffering from any of the conditions detailed below, you should:

  1. Speak to your GP
  2. Access support through the Student Support to explore self-help strategies and potentially access disability support if you receive a formal diagnosis.
  3. Contact support organisations such as those listed on our Helplines page for information on support groups and other resources available to you.


Depression is a mood disorder characterised by low mood and a range of other possible symptoms, which will vary from person to person. This illness can develop quickly or gradually, and can be brought on by life events and/or changes in body chemistry. It can strike anyone but is curable in very many cases.


Anxiety is the feeling of fear and panic and as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety problem at some point in their lives. Most people feel anxious, panicky or fearful about situations in life, such as money problems or exams but often once the difficult situation is over, you feel better and calmer.

Symptoms of anxiety include feeling frightened, nervous or panicky all the time. You may also feel down or depressed, have difficulty sleeping and eating, be unable to concentrate on things and feel tired and irritable. Physically you might have palpitations or a racing of your heart, dry mouth, trembling, faintness and you may experience stomach cramps or diarrhoea.

Panic attacks are associated with feelings of extreme anxiety that come on in unpredictable attacks that usually last for about ten minutes. If you have panic attacks, you may have difficulties breathing, feel panicky and tend to feel out of control.

Eating problems

Students experiencing stress and anxiety can have difficulties with food, which can result in over-eating or under-eating as a coping mechanism. Eating problems can have a profound impact on your mental and physical health but advice and support is available from a number of sources on our resources page.


Self-harm is when someone carries out an act to hurt themselves as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, old memories, or overwhelming situations and experiences. There are various self-harm services to provide support across Northern Ireland on our resources page.


Suicide is the second most common cause of death in young adults and incidents of suicide is rising, particularly amongst young men.  Most people who attempt suicide are ambivalent about killing themselves; their main focus is trying to put a stop to unbearable feelings or a situation that seems intolerable.  Someone who is suicidal may well be feeling frightened, trapped, hopeless, helpless, confused, distressed and desperate to escape from their suffering, rather than actually wanting to die.  However, at times like this suicide can feel like the only way out.

Thoughts about suicide are very common and the thought of suicide may fleetingly cross the mind of many people at some point in their lives.  However, the vast majority of people never act on these thoughts, or seek support.

At Ulster University, we believe that suicide is an avoidable death. Student Support have worked to challenge the stigma around mental ill health and asked for help from our students through the Mind Your Mood campaign. We have delivered safeTALK suicide alertness training to students as part of Mind Your Mood, as well as offering this to student facing staff groups within the University.

If you are worried about thoughts of suicide call into Student Support on any campus during working hours to get support from our trained staff.  Outside of working hours you should call Inspire (student counselling service) on 0800 082 5510 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

Are you worried about someone else's mental health?

If you are worried that someone you know is thinking about taking his or her own life, it is difficult to know what to say or do. Many factors are involved in how your friend is feeling and people at risk of suicide often feel very isolated and alone.

If someone is not their usual self or if they are showing signs that worry you, do not ignore it. If you are concerned about suicide, it is important to talk to the person about how they are feeling and encourage them to access support through their GP, Lifeline, Inspire or other support services such as those listed in our Helplines page.

These services can also be also sources of advice and support for you, as this can be very stressful and you must carefully manage your own wellbeing while supporting someone at risk. If you want to discuss your concerns, you can come and meet with triage or a health & wellbeing adviser in Student Support.

Making an appointment

  1. If you are not sure who to talk to, drop in or make an appointment to meet with one of our triage assistants on campus. You can confidentially discuss any issues that concern you and they will assess your needs and signpost you to the best source of support for you.
  2. You may be referred to one of our health & wellbeing advisers who will advise you on self-help and coping strategies as well as helping you liaise with any suitable external support networks.
  3. If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, you should disclose this to us and provide us with your medical evidence. Then our accessability advisers can recommend support to help you in your studies while you manage your condition.
  4. All Ulster University students can access a professional counsellor through a 24/7 freephone helpline brought to you in collaboration with Inspire students (formerly known as Carecall).