Looking After Your Mental Health at University: Priory expert offers advice

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Thousands of students across the UK have undertaken the well-established rite of passage – starting their first year at university. But restrictions caused by COVID-19 have made this year a unique and difficult experience for students.

When studying at university, we already have to manage the stress of academic work, tight finances and balancing a busy and hectic social life and schedule of extra-curricular activities. The pandemic, and the news of a new circuit-breaker lockdown happening in Wales, adds another layer of pressure to this mix.

Priory’s consultant psychiatrist Dr Niall Campbell has outlined steps that undergraduates can take to look after themselves and their mental health as they adjust to student living … 

Dr Niall Campbell, Priory Group  

“Try to get out of your room and spend some time in safe student common areas, where allowed. Many students will feel like you do, and it is a good way to start interacting. Cook, talk and laugh together, even if it’s just through virtual means,” says Dr Campbell.

“If you have access to social media platforms like Zoom, you can still link up online to socialise,” he adds.

As physical and mental health can have a direct impact on one another, Dr Campbell also advises: “Keep strong mentally and physically by maintaining a regular exercise regime, whether it’s running, yoga or team sports, where allowed. 

“Get outside as much as possible and meet a fellow student for a regular walk or run if you can. Sports, music and drama activities might be altered to comply with social distancing rules or may have moved online, but not cancelled entirely, so check the policies on extra-curricular activities.

Despite many university-hosted activities moving online, Dr Campbell suggests that students do “as much as you can alongside your studies”, particularly for those who are feeling bored, lonely and isolated. “New students can join online or virtual fairs and social events, where you will make new friends.”

Priory Group

As students’ social spheres are likely to be smaller as a result of COVID-19, Dr Campbell urges students to make use of all confidential support and counselling if they need to. It is important that no one suffers in silence. He says: “Many universities have a ‘wellbeing information directory’, wellbeing societies and there may be a ‘buddy’ system if you are a fresher.”

 If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, there are people to help, whatever the underlying cause. Your first semester at university can be an overwhelming and anxious time. Feeling worried about living in a new place, meeting new people every day, and missing your friends and family back home is completely normal, and something almost everyone will experience at some point. But if things become a little too much for you, please remember that you are not alone, and there is lots of support out there for you. 

Priory Group

Available mental health support at Bangor University … 

Bangor University Mental Health Advisers provide information about mental health issues and signpost you to the services and support available. They can give you practical advice on how to make university life more manageable, and also work with other university departments so you can receive the support. You can email mentalhealthadviser@bangor.ac.uk for more information.

Bangor University Counselling Service provide self-help materials, workshops, lectures, group support sessions, and individual counselling sessions to students. To get information, support, or to book a counselling session, please email counselling@bangor.ac.uk

Personal Tutors are assigned to everybody at the beginning of their first semester at university. They are academic members of staff from your school, who will meet with you regularly throughout your time at university. You can turn to them with any worries, problems or concerns.

The Residential Support Team is made up of student Mentors and Senior Wardens who are staff from the university living in Halls of Residences. Student mentors are assigned to every building and are on call in the evening to support students and their welfare. The team isn’t just there to check your kitchens are clean enough and tell you to “shhh” when your pre-drinks are too loud, but they’re also there for you to go too if you want any advice, or have any worries or concerns about you or somebody else living in halls. 

Useful numbers for support …

Bodnant Medical Centre is the student GP practice and provides services for students that are not normally available in a traditional GP practice. They have a Practice Nurse for Student Health who is available every day during the week.  Tel: 01248 364492

NHS Wales – If you are feeling unwell, mentally or physically, you can call NHS Direct Wales. You can also call the NHS on 111.  Tel: 0845 46 47

Samaritans – Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans at any time. Tel: 116 123 

The Mix supports under 25’s who need help but don’t know where to turn. Tel: 0808 808 4994 

Meic Cymru is a confidential, free helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales, offering support in both English and Welsh.  Tel: 0808 80 23456 or text: 84001

SupportLine provides a confidential telephone helpline offering emotional support to any individual on any issue.  Tel: 01708 765200 

Shout is a 24/7 UK crisis text service available for times when people feel they need immediate support. Text ‘Shout’ to 85258

CALL offers a confidential listening and support service for people in Wales. Tel: 0800 132 737 or text “help” to 81066

HOPELINEUK gives confidential support and practical advice to anybody having suicidal thoughts, or those concerned about a young person who might be. Tel: 0800 068 4141 or text 07860039967

SANELINE offers specialist emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. Tel: 0300 304 7000

Switchboard provides information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men and bisexual and trans people, and anyone considering issues around their sexuality and/or gender identity. Tel: 0300 330 0630 

Childline offers counselling services to young people up to their 19th birthday. Tel: 0800 1111

BEAT is a helpline for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. They also have a student line specifically for students. Tel: 0808 801 0677 or Studentline: 0808 801 0811 

Anxiety UK has an infoline service for anybody affected by anxiety, stress and/or anxiety-based depression. Tel: 03444775774 

OCD Action offers help, information and support for people with OCD, carers and anyone who is concerned that they, or their friends or relatives, may have OCD or a related disorder. Tel: 0845 390 6232 or 020 7253 2664

Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre North Wales provides information, support and therapy to anyone who has experienced any kind of sexual abuse or violence. Tel: 0808 80 10 800

Cruse offers emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. Tel: 0808 808 1677​

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