What is mental health?
Everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health. Mental health can be thought of in terms of how we think, feel and behave. Your mental health does not stay the same, it can change as circumstances change and as you move through different stages of your life.
- One third of students report psychological distress during their time at university.
- 75% of all mental health issues have developed by the age of 24.
- Anxiety and depression are the most commonly experienced mental health issues in the student population but students also report experiencing symptoms of eating disorders, self-harm, OCD, bipolar disorder, psychosis and personality disorders.
- In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of student deaths by suicide.
- 94% of HE institutions report an increase in demand for their Wellbeing and Counselling services.
- Recent UCAS figures show a 135% increase in mental health disclosures among students.
- Within Edge Hill, we have seen a 48% increase in the number of students that have had contact with our Wellbeing team in academic year 18/19, compared to academic year 17/18.
Not sure which toolkit to use – scroll down to the bottom to see some wellbeing signs to look out for to help direct you to the right toolkit.
Wellbeing signs to look out for
If you are worried about a student, there are a range of wellbeing signs to look out for that may help you to identify the cause of their issues. Please click to expand the boxes below for more information.
Having low mood and feeling down is a common feeling that everyone experiences from time to time. This is often triggered by circumstances or events and will usually improve after a short time. If you have a student who is experiencing a period of low mood, have a chat with them and find out what may be affecting their mood, and how you might be able to practically help them.
If a student has been experiencing low mood for longer than a couple of weeks and their mood is affecting their day-to-day life and engagement with activities or other people then they may be suffering from depression.
For further information about depression and guidance on how to support a student suffering with depression please see the Depression and Low Mood toolkit.
If the student has had a baby within the past 12 months or has recently become a dad their low mood could be a sign of postnatal depression. To find out more about perinatal mental health and how to support students see the Perinatal Mental Health toolkit.
Irritable or aggressive
If someone is irritable or aggressive, there are several reasons why they may be behaving this way. For example, irritability or aggression can be a learned behaviour as a way of dealing with things when they do not go the way that they have planned or expected. It may be a one-off, a rare outburst, an expression of frustration and anger in reaction to a situation, or it may be a common reaction when the person is frustrated.
It is important to consider if a student’s behaviour has changed and they are more irritable or aggressive than normal. If they are frequently irritable or aggressive this can be a sign of other things such as stress, alcohol or drug use or other more complex conditions such as bipolar disorder. If you are concerned that the student may be struggling with any of these conditions, please refer to the relevant toolkits for more information on how to support and when to refer.
If a student’s behaviour is intimidating, threatening or causing distress to other students, contact Campus Support on 01695 584227 (extension 4227).
Being tearful is common. Some people are more inclined to express emotions through crying than others. It can be a normal response to an upsetting incident such as a fall-out with family or friends, a relationship break-up, or feeling homesick. Having a discussion with a student about what is causing them to be tearful is important and showing empathy and understanding will be helpful and might be all the student needs at that time.
If a student is persistently upset and tearful, or they are particularly distressed and upset, it may be that they are struggling with their wellbeing or that they are experiencing a particularly difficult life event. For example, they may have suffered a bereavement or may not be coping with moving away from home.
Students who are anxious, depressed or stressed may be tearful and those who have experienced a bereavement may present as visibly upset or distressed. If you suspect a student is struggling with any of these issues refer to the online toolkits for further guidance and advice on how to support them. If you are concerned a student may be suicidal or an imminent risk to themselves then immediately contact the Catalyst Helpdesk and ask to speak to the Duty Wellbeing Officer on 01695 650800 (extension 7800).
It is common for students to feel tired or fatigued, particularly if they are studying late, and having late nights socialising and getting up early for lectures. They may also have children or other people to care for and may have a job alongside their studies. If you suspect this is the case, it is important that you chat with the student about prioritising their workload and consider any ways you can offer support to alleviate stress and support them with managing their workload.
Fatigue can also be a symptom of several health conditions for example, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, diabetes, thyroid conditions, anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, and pregnancy. It may be recommended for students to visit their GP if they are experiencing fatigue or tiredness that has been persistent for at least three months and has not improved with sleep so they can be checked over and any physical health conditions can be ruled out.
Fatigue and tiredness can also occur if someone is feeling depressed or stressed. If you suspect a student’s symptoms may be because of depression or stress refer to the toolkits for more information and guidance on how to support them.
If a student has a diagnosed condition such as fibromyalgia, then consider what practical support and reasonable adjustments need to be implemented. If you need advice on this contact the Inclusion team on 01695 657568 (extension 7568).
Worrying and feeling anxious are common feelings and behaviours when someone is under pressure, for example, attending a job interview, sitting an exam or working to meet a deadline. Talking through what is making someone feel anxious and offering practical solutions to ease their worry can be helpful.
If someone is worrying excessively, and this is preventing them from functioning in their daily life, or their worry is due to more complex issues, then they may be suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
If you suspect a student is suffering from GAD refer to the toolkit on anxiety for further guidance on how to support them.
Some people who experience anxiety also experience panic attacks. These attacks are not dangerous and will not cause any physical harm to the person, nevertheless they can be frightening and distressing.
An attack may only last for a minute or so or can last longer. It is important that the person is supported through the attack. If a student experiences a panic attack while they are with you, the Mind charity suggest some ways to help someone manage their symptoms:
- Focusing on breathing by breathing in and out slowly.
- Stamping on the spot can help to control breathing.
- Focusing on their senses – touching something that is soft, or textured, or tasting something with a flavour like mint.
- Grounding techniques such as listening to sounds around you, wrapping something around you like a blanket or keeping your feet firmly on the ground can also help.
Once a student is calm again and no longer experiencing the effects of a panic attack, it will be helpful to signpost them to the Wellbeing team to access group sessions and wellbeing self-help. To help manage their anxiety see the Wellbeing webpages for more information.
If you feel you require more information on anxiety and how to support students with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), please refer to the anxiety toolkit.
Psychosis is an episode during which a person loses touch with reality. Psychosis can happen to people of any age, influenced by factors such as drug/alcohol use, stress, effects of medication and pre-existing mental health conditions. The experience will differ from person to person, however, commonly reported symptoms include: seeing or hearing things which others may not (hallucinations), feelings of paranoia, and unusual beliefs (delusions) which may cause the individual distress or significantly impact their daily life. This combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can cause severe distress and a change in behaviour.
Experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode.
What to do if someone is experiencing a psychotic episode:
- Stay calm. Try to keep yourself and the environment that you are in as calm as possible
- If there is an immediate risk to either themselves or to you/someone else, ring 999. Please advise Campus Support if you have called 999.
- Try to offer words of comfort and reassurance. It may be helpful to say things such as “I understand that this must be really difficult for you but I’m here to help”.
- Do not confront the student or challenge what they believe to be seeing or hearing, as this could cause them to become more anxious.
- As soon as you are able to, ring the Catalyst Helpdesk (01695 650800 or extension 7800) and ask to speak to someone from the Wellbeing team urgently.