Student Guide to Accessing Mental Health Services
Around 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems a year in the UK but so many of us don’t know where to start looking. University is a stressful time, let alone university during a pandemic. It’s important to take care of your mental health and wellbeing and remember, it doesn’t have to be physical to require professional help. We’ve put together this handy list of the different ways you can seek support whether you are a student or not, we all need a little help from time to time.
First and foremost, please make sure you primarily seek support from professionals. There are many other useful services out there that can help but those should be used alongside the official routes.
So, where can you start?
Speak to your GP:
Book an appointment with your local GP and if you don’t have a local one, register with one! You’ll be able to discuss these problems with them and they can determine the most suitable way forward, this could be further consultations, referral to free therapies, or in some cases, medication.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your GP don’t worry, you skip this step and refer yourself to receive free therapy. You will still need to be registered with a GP to access these services.
See what services are available in your area: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/
Within a couple of weeks within referral the organization will get in touch with you to discuss your issues further and decide which is the most appropriate way forward. The most common treatment you will receive is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). CBT is a great way to help you understand your thought cycles and learn how to break out of those and improve your mental health. This can be applied to a variety of mental health conditions, primarily anxiety and depression however, it does work for others too. You could also be offered the option of guided self-help or counselling, both of which are quite successful also.
Paid therapy and counselling:
If you can afford to pay for assistance it is certainly a good option. There are many, many, websites online designed to help you find a suitable therapist or counsellor in your area. You will likely have to pay per session (typically one hour) and fees do vary. These sessions can be online or in-person, depending on your preference.
One website that can help you locate the right person for you is: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
There are cheaper alternatives which you can access using an app on your smartphone. Some of the most well-known apps are TalkSpace or BetterHelp. Though this is still paid, it usually comes at a much lower cost overall than traditional paid therapy and counselling. Another great benefit is that you can usually contact your therapist at any time, they may not respond immediately but they can get back to you at any point during the day, multiple times a day!
Specific to university students:
Awareness of mental health is increasing, especially with universities and their responsibilities for their student’s wellbeing. Many universities now offer mental health support in a variety of methods, find out if your university offers mental health support here: https://www.studentminds.org.uk/universitystaff-runworkshops.html#
This website is very useful as it offers advice and support whether you are the student struggling with mental health, or if you are a friend or family member of the student.
Student Minds offers a few programs consisting of courses, a workshop, and a discussion group in a couple of different focus areas.
If you aren’t the student but you’re looking out for a friend or family member you suspect is struggling and you don’t know where to start, Student Minds also gives advice on what you can do. This can be a difficult subject and many people aren’t used to communicating about mental health. Take a look here to see what you can do:
Some employers will offer an Employee Assistance Programme, if you are unsure you can ask your HR department. The EAP may come with some free or discounted therapy sessions as well as advice on how to access resources. This can usually be done without notifying your workplace.
There are also a HUGE number of mental health charities that can give you free information, support, and guidance.
The NHS have created a great list of trusted charities you can contact. In this list you can see there are a couple that specialize in more targeted areas such as bereavement, OCD and men’s health. Browse the charities here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
If you are concerned for a child or young person’s mental health the NHS also provide information on what you can do here: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/childrens-mental-health/
The following are beneficial for maintaining your mental health and wellbeing on a day-to-day basis but remember, these do not replace professional support!
Apps for your smartphone:
Here are some favourite apps targeted to help the listener improve their mental wellbeing.
Elefriends — An online community ran by Mind. You can speak to like-minded individuals and support one-another. This is for over 17s only.
HeadSpace — A meditation app which aims to achieve mindfulness via guided exercises and videos.
Silver Cloud — This app contains a multitude of tools and tips to help you tackle all areas of your life from time management, relationships, sleep, stress and wellbeing.
SuperBetter — This app helps you associate addressing your mental health in a positive way by making it a game by battling the bad guys! There are a range of exercises to complete, helping you to build resilience and feel stronger, happier and healthier.
Try to take some time during the day to remove yourself from any distractions and pop in your headphones to listen to some of our top podcasts aimed to make you feel more in control of your mental wellbeing, strong and inspired.
Feel Better, Live More — Dr Chatterjee, along with other professionals guests, discuss hacks and give advice on how to … feel better and live more!
She’s Electric — Hosted by Jody Shield, this inspirational podcast celebrates powerful women. You can’t help but feel a little motivated by the end of an episode too.
The Slow Home podcast — If you ever feel overwhelmed by life, take a step back and listen to Brooke McAlary and you’ll find out how slow down and keep things simple, enjoying each step of life as it comes.
The Calmer You — Chloe Brotheridge, a coach and hypnotherapist, helps listeners to tackle your inner negative thoughts and become a more confident, self-assured and calm individual.
Deliciously Ella — What started as a personal project to discover and enjoy plant-based healthy eating has become a huge sensation. Deliciously Ella now hosts a podcast that discusses all things physical and mental health with a variety of guests.
Friends and family:
It is good to speak about your mental health issues as it normalizes them. Though we should try not to dwell on them, speaking about your mental health issues helps normalize these discussions which can help you and others. As we know, a lot of people have similar struggles and too often people feel alone. Sharing and vocalizing a problem genuinely does help to take a little weight off your shoulders. Your family and friends can offer perspective, advice and help ground you. Just remember, they are not professionals and so this should be done alongside seeking help from the professionals.