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student mental health

student mental health

nearly 75% of students report low mood, with over 50% concealing poor mental health from others due to fear of stigma

Starting university is a big change, and having a mix of feelings is completely normal. You might feel excited about the newfound independence of college or university life. At the same time, you may be nervous, wondering how to make friends and how to handle your coursework, finances and everyday life. You might even feel slightly sad about being away from your loved ones.

Being a college student is full of opportunities, but it also brings its own set of challenges that can affect your mental wellbeing. Juggling classes, social life, and self-care can be tough, and let’s not forget about the stress that can come from revising for exams and essays. 

In this guide, we’ll give you practical advice on managing stress during your college journey, whether you’re currently enrolled or have already graduated. We’ll also share some tips on taking care of your mental health during the semester and how you can make the most of your university experience!  

What are common mental health conditions and challenges that students face? 

Young people attending universities and colleges are in a critical transition and development period, often associated with various mental health difficulties. Here are some of the most common mental health conditions or challenges people in your age group face, particularly students. Read more about them to learn how to spot symptoms and act early. 


Anxiety is a common issue among students, often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. It’s that uneasy feeling you get when you’re worried or scared about something that might happen soon or in the future. When anxiety starts affecting your daily life and what you want to do, it becomes a mental health issue that needs attention, as it can make it hard to live your life the way you want. 


Depression is a prevalent mental health condition among students. It represents a complex emotional state characterised by intense sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. When these depressive symptoms persist and significantly impair a student’s functioning and overall quality of life, it is categorised as a mental health condition. Therefore, depression is a clinically significant issue in the student population, necessitating appropriate intervention. 

Eating disorders

Eating disorders encompass severe mental health conditions. Most common are Anorexia and Bulimia. Anorexia involves extreme food restriction and distorted body image, often resulting in dangerously low body weight and physical and psychological complications. Bulimia involves binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours to control weight, leading to adverse health effects and a preoccupation with body image. 

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by persistent difficulties in attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, often persisting into adulthood. It impacts academic, work, and social performance, requiring a tailored approach involving medication, therapy, and education to improve coping strategies and daily functioning. 


Stress is a common psychological response to challenging situations or overwhelming demands. It often manifests as feelings of tension, anxiety, or unease. In a student’s life, stress can result from academic pressures, exams, deadlines, and personal issues. While moderate stress can sometimes motivate, excessive or chronic stress can harm one’s mental and physical well-being. 

Suicidal thoughts 

Having suicidal thoughts is a severe mental health concern. These feelings encompass thoughts, urges, or intentions related to self-harm or taking one’s own life. They often emerge because of overwhelming emotional distress, psychological pain, or a sense of hopelessness. Suicidal feelings are medical emergencies, and anyone experiencing them should seek immediate help from mental health professionals and call crisis hotlines such as Samaritans at 116 123. 

During university: be SMART

There’s a lot of advice on the internet about university life that can feel quite overwhelming, but we’ve condensed it to make it easier for you. Remember to be SMART about it, and you’ll be all set.

Study effectively 

Discover effective study techniques that optimise both your productivity and retention. Occasionally, selecting a library as your study environment can prove more advantageous than your dorm room, where many distractions exist. Set clear boundaries for technology use, take regular breaks from screens, and utilise apps to monitor and limit screen time. Choose meaningful and beneficial content when engaging with social media, and remember to disconnect to maintain a healthy balance.

Master your schedule 

Take charge of your time to reach your academic goals efficiently. Be aware of your deadlines and how they work to manage your time better. Create a schedule where you allocate study time. A simple method to help with this is using the Pomodoro technique, which involves focused study periods of 25 minutes followed by 5-minute breaks. Research has shown that this method ensures productivity during study sessions, promoting a well-rounded routine. 

Achieve balance 

Achieving a balance between your studies and non-academic activities is essential for your wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to join clubs and societies and make time for friends and family. You might try to find a cause you’re passionate about and consider volunteering or engaging in local community activities. Ensure you have a budget and enough savings to maintain your needs. Maintaining balance is a crucial step to university success. 

Refuel mind and body 

Prioritising self-care is crucial to optimising your academic performance and preventing burnout. This entails maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in activities that rejuvenate your mind and body. Stay hydrated and schedule routine check-ups with your GP and dentist. When you prioritise self-care, you enhance your physical and mental wellbeing, build resilience to avoid burnout, and excel in your academic pursuits. 

Tackle stress 

The demands of academic life can often lead to heightened stress levels, impacting your performance and overall wellbeing. To counter this, it’s essential to cultivate strategies to navigate stress successfully. This may include practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or maintaining a support network of friends and mentors. Build resilience and grit to get mentally stronger and bounce back when things get tough. You can do it by applying three rules: 

  • Stay positive: whenever things don’t go as planned, try to see them as chances to learn and grow.
  • Keep trying: Even if things are difficult, set small goals that you can achieve along the way. Don’t give up, and keep your focus on what you want to achieve in the long run
  • Be flexible: Sometimes, you’ll need to change your plans. That’s okay! Learn to adjust and find new ways to reach your goals while staying true to what matters to you.

When things feel too hard, it’s important to ask for help. Reach out to a teacher, university mental health team, or a trusted adult in your life. They are there to listen, understand, and support you through tough times so you don’t have to face them alone. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for more support.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and you shouldn’t feel ashamed when you do so. 

Myths about uni life 

You need to attend a prestigious university to succeed

The university’s prestige does not solely determine success in your career. It comes down to many factors, such as dedication and work ethic. What you do during your time at university matters more than the university’s reputation.

You need to party or drink to make friends

Universities are diverse, and not all students drink alcohol. Joining different societies and networking groups can help balance social life and academic goals while respecting personal boundaries.

You need high marks to succeed

While important, high grades are not the sole measure of success. Practical skills, experience, and interpersonal abilities are arguably more important. Many students who get thirds go on to have successful careers

After university: stay CALM 

Life after university is arguably more overwhelming than being in uni. But remember to remain CALM, and you’ll be all right.

Cultivate personal growth 

After graduation, invest your time in constant self-improvement. Make small daily changes that contribute to your growth, such as developing new skills and positive habits. Embrace this opportunity for self-discovery and continuous development on your academic and career success path. 

Avoid comparisons 

Resist the urge to compare your post-graduation journey to others’. Recognise that each person’s path is unique, and success takes different forms. By avoiding comparisons, you free yourself from unnecessary stress and self-doubt, allowing you to focus on your individual growth and achievements.

Learn from experiences 

Consider your desired career as a long-term goal and embrace the opportunities to gain valuable experiences, even if they differ from your initial plans. Embrace opportunities to learn and grow, understanding that these experiences contribute to your personal and professional development.  

Maintain composure 

Post-graduation life can be uncertain, but remaining composed and resilient is essential. Getting a job is challenging, but don’t panic if things don’t go as planned. Stay focused on your long-term goals, learn from setbacks, and recognise that they offer valuable lessons and opportunities for growth as you navigate post-graduation challenges. 


If you are an educator or work in student support, Bloom and Your Resilience provides school staff with the opportunity to develop their skills and confidence in having open conversations about mental health and support young people in transitioning to higher education. Learn more about the different Young People’s Programmes and contact us for more details.

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone service for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16 feeling low, depressed or anxious. Phone Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (6pm to 2am, weekdays and 24 hours at the weekend). 

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