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's 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 to recognise 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.
Problems with your mental health
If you are experiencing problems with you mental health they can affect the way you think, feel and behave, much like a physical illness. However, the symptoms are not always visible to or understood by others.
Signs to look out for
Here are some of the early warning signs that you should look out for:
- mood swings or consistently lower mood
- loss of interest in doing things you previously enjoyed
- not wanting to socialise or spend time with family and friends
- disturbed sleep patterns
If you feel that you may be suffering from any of the symptoms, it's really important that you seek help and support through one of these channels:
- Make an appointment with you GP.
- Access support through the Student Wellbeing Team to explore self-help strategies and potentially access disability support if you receive a formal diagnosis. Our Student Wellbeing team are available from 8.45am-5pm (Mon-Thu) and 8.45am-4pm (Fri).
- Contact support organisations such as those listed on this page and through our Helplines page for information on support groups and other resources available to you.
Common mental health disorders
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.
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 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 Wellbeing 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 Wellbeing on any campus during working hours to get support from our trained staff.
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 a Wellbeing Assistant or a Wellbeing Adviser in Student Wellbeing.
Dealing with loss and bereavement
Serious loss is something which we will all face at some point in our lives. This may be the death of someone close to us or it may be because of other circumstances such as the loss of our health or our home or the death of a much loved pet for example. During this time it can be difficult to know what is normal and to understand how we or our families respond when we face a loss.
Coming to terms with loss, grief or bereavement for example can involve many feelings; such as denial, isolation, anger, deep sadness, loss, emptiness and depression. The good news is that these feelings are normal. Each person experiences loss and grief in their own way and every experience will have its own unique process there are no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’.
How can I help myself following a loss, grief and or bereavement?
- Look after your own health. Eat well, rest properly, take extra care of yourself.
- Don’t bottle things up.
- Talk to people about how you feel. Talk to a friend or family member. Go to your doctor if you feel you have no one to talk to. They may suggest speaking to a counsellor.
- Talk to us at Student Wellbeing.
- Do ask for help if you are not coping; speak to a friend and/or your lecturers
- Stay in touch with family and friends. Find out about local events, clubs and societies on your campus.
- Seek help from other organisations.
- The NHS Northumberland Tyne and Wear website contains a downloadable leaflet about bereavement.
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists have a downloadable leaflet about bereavement that can be translated into several languages.
- Help is at hand is a downloadable leaflet to support anyone bereaved by suicide.
Making an appointment
- If you are not sure who to talk to, drop in or make an appointment to meet with one of our Student Wellbeing 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.
- You may be referred to one of our Wellbeing Advisers who will advise you on self-help and coping strategies as well as helping you liaise with any suitable external support networks.
- If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, you should disclose this to us and provide us with your medical evidence. Then our accessibility advisers can recommend support to help you in your studies while you manage your condition.
- All Ulster University students can access a professional counsellor through a 24/7 freephone helpline brought to you in collaboration with Inspire students by calling 0800 028 5510 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This service is not available 24 hours a day.
University can be lots of fun but it can also be quite stressful, especially if you are struggling with academic or personal issues.
Student Wellbeing provides a range of services to support students in need, including counselling support.
Student Wellbeing Team
Our Student Wellbeing team are available from 8.45am-5pm (Mon-Thu) and 8.45am-4pm (Fri).
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Student Wellbeing views confidentiality as a means of providing students with safety and privacy, as well as creating an environment where our students feel comfortable in seeking support.
We hold and process your data in line with the University’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
On occasion, it may be necessary for us to share information with relevant third parties in your best interests including; health and social care professionals, parent and/or next of kin if there is a known or suspected risk of harm to yourself or others.
There may also be occasions where we have a legal obligation to share information and you will be advised of this. These instances may include;
- If you present with significant risk of harm to self, others or from others
- If you disclose involvement in or awareness of a criminal offence and give details in relation to the offence
- If you raise concerns in relation to child protection or concerns regarding an adult at risk
- Disclosure of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, including domestic violence, child abuse, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking
Your data is collected only for the purposes of providing support services to you, and held electronically on the University CRM system.
This information is held securely against your student record, but is only accessible to staff within Student Experience & Wellbeing.
All personal data is held securely and only accessible in relation to providing additional support services to you, and is compliant with GDPR.
Read more on the Student Privacy Notice.
We may require copies of documentation as supporting evidence in order to provide some services, making recommendations to other University departments or services providers (or third party organisations), but this will be at your request.
Informed Minds App
The Informed Minds App aims to support and help young people with their Mental Health Wellbeing by providing a range of Lived and Learned short vlogs and blogs from young people on various Mental Health Wellbeing topics. These young people have been there. They have experienced a range of challenges or life experiences, so they voluntarily share their stories and some tips and strategies that helped them, with the aim of helping others. The App also includes short vlogs and blogs from professionals from a range of fields who also offer some advice on the topic.
Within the App there is also a ‘Mind Gym’ – mini training opportunities with a series of 4/5 short vlogs, blogs or audios to help improve our understanding of key topics and provide techniques to strengthen skills and wellbeing in areas such as reducing stress, confidence, resilience and motivation.
Download the Informed Minds App via the app store or Google Play and use your Ulster University email address to sign in. (A code will be sent to your email to confirm, be sure to check your junk mail for this.)