Depression and low mood
Feeling depressed is common and can be a reaction to events or experiences going on in our lives at that time such as bereavement, stress at work, bullying or relationship difficulties. Feeling low in mood is something most people experience from time to time and can improve over a matter of days or weeks, particularly if the events causing the low mood resolve.
Sometimes the low mood doesn’t go away, and this can be a sign of depression.
How they might feel
Someone who is feeling depressed may:
- Experience low mood lasting two weeks or more
- Not get any enjoyment out of life
- Feel hopeless
- Feel tired or lacking energy
- Have a sense of apathy and lack of motivation
Things you might observe
If someone else is depressed or suffering from low mood you may notice some of the following behaviour/symptoms:
- They may not being able to concentrate on everyday things for example: lectures or assignments.
- They are eating more or eating less and changes in weight (weight gain or weight loss).
- Sleeping more than usual or being unable to sleep.
- They may have suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself – they may tell people about these thoughts/feelings.
- Tearful and upset often or more often than usual.
Watch this video from a student at Plymouth University who talks about his experience of depression and the impact this has had on him. He also talks about how returning to education helped his confidence and self-esteem, and gave him purpose.
If a student requires support but is not at immediate risk:
- Validate how the student is feeling, such as “you seem very low” or “it’s understandable you feel low with everything you have going on”.
- Identify with the student what is causing them to feel depressed/low.
- Allow the student to consider solutions that may help them by asking open questions “how can I help you?” “What support can we offer you that may help?”
- Identify what practical support could be considered to support the student.
- If the student has recently had a baby or their partner has had a baby, their low mood/depression may be a post-natal depression. Refer to our toolkit on Perinatal Depression for information about this and how to support.
- If the depression is related to their course or university experience reassure them that it is common to feel this way and consider what support, you may be able to offer them.
- If the student requires a referral for specific issues for example they are struggling with money worries, have an accommodation issue or their issues are complex then consider the routes in the ‘How to Refer’ section, seek the student’s consent to refer and explain that they can also self-refer to Student Services.
- Ask the student if they are registered with a GP. If they are not, the Wellbeing webpages have information on registering with a local GP. If they are, recommend that the student makes an appointment.
- If the depression they are experiencing has led them to unhealthy coping habits such as drinking excessively or taking drugs refer to one of our specific toolkits for ways to support them.
- Make sure the student is aware of how to contact the Wellbeing team and what they should do if at any point they feel they cannot keep themselves safe, see our Critical Incident webpages.
- Be aware that students with depression may be considered to have a disability and therefore reasonable adjustments, such as exam modifications, might be a legal requirement. If you believe this might be the case, then contact the Inclusion team for advice and guidance on 01695 657568 (extension 7568) as to how you should implement them.
If the student tells you they have intentions of ending their life:
- Ask the student if they have intentions or have made plans to end their life or if they feel they cannot keep themselves safe.
- If you feel the student is an imminent risk to themselves seek immediate support for the student and where possible do not allow them to leave your office. If it is outside normal working hours, please contact 01695 584227 (extension 4227).
- Don’t dismiss the student’s feelings or reasons for feeling low.
- Don’t assume low mood is depression feeling low can be a normal emotional response to the circumstances or stress in the student’s life at that time.
- Don’t assume anything. There are physical conditions that can cause similar symptoms to depression such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or deficiencies such as anaemia and B12 deficiency.
- Don’t promise confidentiality.
Refer a student if:
- You feel you can no longer provide practical advice or support to the student
- You feel the student needs more specialist support
- You feel the student is at immediate risk to themselves or others.
If you believe the student is an imminent risk to themselves or others ideally do not let them leave your office or teaching room. Contact Catalyst Helpdesk on 01695 650800 (extension 7800) and ask them to put you through to the Duty Wellbeing Adviser in Student Services. If it is out of hours, contact Campus Support on 01695 584227 (extension 4227).
If a student is an immediate risk to themselves, you do not need consent from the student to contact Student Services.
If a student is not at immediate risk to themselves but requires specialist support, you must obtain their consent to refer them to any of the following services as appropriate:
|Team Name||Support Offered||Contact Details|
|Academic Registry||Provide advice on and processing of course changes: transferring course/university, repeating a year, module changes, changing mode of study, appeals.||[email protected]|
|Accommodation team||Provide advice/guidance about accommodation both on and off campus, including hall fee queries.||Cat[email protected]|
|Campus Life||Ensure that students live in a safe/secure environment on campus. Promote and organise events to help students make the most of their time here and administrate the Disciplinary Regulations.||[email protected]|
|Campus Support||Provides 24/7 support and security on campus.||01695 584227|
|Careers||Provide advice and support with career planning, job hunting, CV writing, volunteering and maximising work experience||[email protected]|
|Chaplaincy||Provides both staff and students of all faiths and none with pastoral support. Activities/events focus on friendship, community, support and faith.||[email protected]|
|Counselling (assessed through the Wellbeing team)||Referral always via the Wellbeing team. Also provide group workshops and 1:1 therapeutic support to help students find solutions to issues they are facing.||[email protected]|
|Disability and Inclusion||Provide advice and support for students with physical/sensory/mental health, autism spectrum disorders or other additional needs. Also provide advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments and support available. Support for specific learning needs – including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD can be found via the Library and Learning Services SpLD team.||[email protected]|
|Law clinic||Provide a free clinic to all staff and students run by Year 3 law students who can advise on legal questions or difficulties such as support with housing contract and employment law for example.||Law Clinic|
|Money Advice||Provide advice on all money-related matters including student funding, budgeting, and the Student Support Fund.||[email protected]|
|Students’ Union||Provides representation for students and promotes and hosts activities/events. Provides advice and support to students on various issues including academic, housing, and money.||[email protected]|
|Transitions team||Targeted support for Care Experienced and Estranged Students (CEES). Advice and support for all students who are thinking of leaving or at risk of withdrawing or being withdrawn.||[email protected]|
|Wellbeing team||First contact for mental health concerns. Practical advice, support and signposting for any issue impacting on a student’s wellbeing.||[email protected]|
Please note: Students can self-refer to all the above services and arrange appointments via the Catalyst Helpdesk.
Useful links and information
For more information about depression and low mood, follow the links below:
There are a range of self-help resources available for students including self-help apps, NHS screening tools and wellbeing activities students can do. Please see below for more information.
Register today for free
Mental health support.
For more details please refer to our T&C during registrationRegister
Togetherall (formerly Big White Wall) – 24/7 mental health support for students
A range of workshops are available for students delivered by the Wellbeing team – for more information follow the link below:
Student Services Wellbeing team – Wellbeing Workshops (NOW ONLINE)
Student Services Wellbeing team – self-help
BlueIce (self-harm management for young people)
Headspace (meditation and mindfulness)
Calm (meditation and mindfulness)
The Wellbeing Thesis – an online resource for postgraduate research students to support their wellbeing, learning and research.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust provides information about suicide and online learning around understanding suicide within the higher education context. It also provides various online training modules for how to support students in crisis or those at risk of suicide.
The NHS e-learning suicide prevention module has advice and guidance about talking to people who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts and signs and symptoms to look out for in others and signposting information to support and advice services. The module takes around 60-90 minutes to complete.
The Mental Health Awareness Workshop is a new workshop designed to support staff to support students with their mental health. The workshop is a practical session and encourages staff to consider helpful ways to talk to students when they have an issue, to consider appropriate and professional boundaries, and provides the opportunity to discuss real case studies in order to better understand how and when to refer students for support. Other sessions that may be useful are Professional Boundaries, Introduction to Resilience, Unconscious Bias, and Mindfulness training. To book a place on any of these sessions please follow the link.
Mental Health Awareness Workshop – Supporting Staff to Support Students (NOW ONLINE)