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Counselling for student mental health problems

Mental health problems are as common among students as they are in the general population.

But it's not just students with a diagnosed mental health condition who can benefit from counselling.

Anyone who has new challenges as a student could benefit from talking to someone. This includes if you have:

  • friend, family or relationship issues
  • low mood or are losing interest in things you enjoy
  • stress or anxiety about your work or anything else

Counselling can help you understand these issues and suggest strategies for dealing with your feelings.

Where to go for help

Talk to someone

It's important to tell someone how you feel as this may bring an immediate sense of relief.

You could speak to a:

  • friend
  • member of your family
  • university tutor
  • counsellor
  • doctor

A tutor may also be able to help you get in touch with university or other counselling services.

University counselling services

Many colleges and most universities have a free and confidential in-house counselling service you can access, with professionally qualified counsellors and psychotherapists.

You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment in the counselling service section of your university's website. This free service in universities is available to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Many universities also have a mental health adviser who can help you access the support you need. Find out more on the University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) website.

As well as counselling or therapy, you may also be entitled to "reasonable adjustments" such as extra time in exams, extensions on coursework, and specialist mental health mentor support.

Student-led services

Many student unions also offer student-led services. Although the students involved are not qualified counsellors, you may prefer to talk about problems such as stress and depression with another student.

Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity.

Individual universities also usually have student night line services – find out more on the Nightline Association website.

Online self-help

There are also online self-help services you can explore, such as:

Therapy and counselling

Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offer an opportunity to explore your feelings in a safe environment and help you develop ways of coping with them.

As well as university or college counselling services, you might be able to refer yourself for NHS counselling. Search for an NHS talking therapies service to find out what's available in your area.

The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) represents the network of mental health advisers working in higher education dedicated to providing practical support to students experiencing mental health difficulties.

Find out more about counselling and therapy for young people at Young Minds.

Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)

At all UK universities, you have the opportunity to apply for a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). Find out more about DSA on the GOV.UK website.

Your mental health adviser can help you apply for the DSA, but you will need to provide evidence of a long-term mental health condition.

The DSA pays for:

  • specialist equipment, such as a computer, if you need it because of your mental health condition or another disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel as a result of your mental health condition or disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

Even if you decide not to apply for a DSA, a mental health adviser will still be able to let you know what support is available.

Drugs, drink and mental health in students

Sometimes people use alcohol and drugs to cope with difficult feelings. But underlying mental health problems could be made worse by drugs or alcohol.

You could be misusing alcohol if:

  • you feel you should cut down on alcohol
  • other people have been criticising your drinking
  • you feel guilty or bad about your drinking
  • you need a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover

If you're concerned about your drinking or drug use, a good first step is to see a GP. They'll be able to discuss the services and treatments available.

As well as the NHS, there are a number of charities and support groups across the UK that provide support and advice for people with an alcohol misuse problem.

Read more about support for an alcohol problem, including a list of alcohol charities and support groups.

If you're not comfortable talking to a GP or someone you know about drug misuse, you can also approach a local drug treatment service yourself.

Visit the FRANK website to find local drug treatment services.

Page last reviewed: 29 March 2023
Next review due: 29 March 2026