What to do if you’re a student and it’s all getting too much

Being a student can already be quite a stressful time as you navigate your way through higher education – and now COVID-19 isn’t making it any easier.

This year hasn’t been easy for any of us, and sometimes, or maybe a lot of the time, you might feel like you can’t cope. You might be feeling more anxious, stressed or sad. Perhaps this university term isn’t how you imagined it to be and it is getting you down. You may also be worried about moving away from home and not having additional support from your family.

It is okay not to feel okay during these times, but if your feelings are becoming deep and intense, then please don’t suffer in silence.

You aren’t alone in feeling like this and it is important for you to know that there are lots of ways to help dealing with these feelings.

It’s absolutely possible to learn to manage them and feel okay again.

Here are some warning signs you should look out for:

  • Deep sadness
  • Losing interest in daily life
  • Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
  • Feeling helpless or worthless
  • Talking or thinking about death
  • Harming yourself

If you experience any of these, you don’t suffer in silence. It’s not good to spend too much time alone, but with COVID-19 restrictions, this may not be your choice. There are ways to stay connected. Encourage yourself to regularly communicate with friends and family whether that is via messages, calls or video chats. It’s at times like these that you need to be able to talk to someone and let them know what is going on with you.

Who can I ask for help?

We know it’s hard, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may feel that you don’t want to burden others. You may worry about what they might think or that they could tell others.

But the truth is this – people care about you and they will want to help you. Your university will have student well-being and mental health support services including access to counselling so please do visit the university website or student union for more information. It is also important that you know the NHS is here for you and you can self-refer to our talking therapies for anxiety and depression via NHS psychological therapies services (IAPT). These services are free, and therapies can be delivered effectively remotely on-line and on the telephone.

Students can access IAPT anywhere in England based on the GP they are registered with, including their home GP if they haven’t yet moved to a GP near their university address. If you need help for your anxiety or depression then don’t wait to contact your local service.

Help if you are in crisis

Talking to others and self-care can help, but sometimes people can experience a mental health crisis, emergency or breakdown. If this does happen to you, or someone you know, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment.

It’s important to know that support is available.

The NHS urgent mental health helplines are for people of all ages. You can call for:

  • 24-hour advice and support – for you, your friend, your parent or someone you care for
  • an assessment to help decide on the best course of care

You can find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline (England only) here on the website.

Other helpful resources

There is a lot of other help available to you:

  • Student Minds is here for students through coronavirus with Student Space. Explore a range of trusted information, services and tools to help you with the challenges of student life. You can access dedicated support services for by phone or text and get help finding what support is available at your place of study.
  • Every Mind Matters has a range of support material for students on self-care and how to look after your own mental health. You can take the mind plan and get tips dedicated to you on how to cope.
  • Samaritans are an organisation you can ring at any time of the day or night. They will help you and listen to how you’re feeling. You can ring them on 116 123. You can also email them:
  • Childline will help you if you’re under 19 and you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small. Their freephone 24-hour helpline is 0800 1111. You can sign up for a childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address. Or you can chat 1:1 with an online advisor
  • SHOUT provides free, confidential, 24/7 text message support in the UK for anyone who is struggling to cope. Text 85258 for SHOUT the UK’s first 24/7 crisis text service on, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime.
  • The Zero Suicide Alliance provide a range of awareness training options, which provide a better understanding of the signs to look out for and the skills required to approach someone who is struggling, whether that be through social isolation or suicidal thoughts.
  • If you have lost a friend, The Support after Suicide Partnership have launched information for students at university with The Ted Senior Foundation – publishing help and support through the website and a series of podcasts which aPrathibare available free on the website, and all major platforms.
Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan is National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, NHS England.

Prathiba is a Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry working in a large mental health and community trust (Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust). Lead consultant since 2005, she became Clinical Director in 2015 and continues to work clinically within a community child and adolescent mental health service in South Manchester. She graduated from Medicine (University of Manchester) before completing her MD, inspiring her interest in the needs of children and young people in contact with the criminal justice system.

Over the last 12 years she has published in journals and books and contributed to national reports and guidance for the Youth Justice Board and Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

She has contributed to the development of the Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool across the youth justice secure estate for the Department of Health and NHS England and continues to be research active as an Honorary Research Fellow and Lecturer for the Offender Health Research Network (University of Manchester).

As a clinical advisor (Greater Manchester and East Cheshire Strategic Clinical Networks), she has also promoted the development of regional clinical guidance across Greater Manchester.