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Mental and emotional health difficulties


Student studying alone

We have a specialist team of psychotherapists and counsellors. If you feel you would benefit from counselling, contact us to have an initial chat, in confidence, about the difficulties you're experiencing and support available to you.

Everyone has mental health – sometimes good, sometimes not so good. As a student you may be someone who has experienced distressing thoughts and feelings in the past, or you may find that the stress of your new life causes you to feel worried, frightened or confused.

Coping with life at University

University can be an exciting experience when you leave home, make friends and study in an academic environment. But sometimes it can be a difficult time; you may feel homesick, worried about money, pressures of study, or that you're 'not fitting in'.

University is a major life change especially if you've moved from a different town or country, you have essentially left everyone and everything you know to start a new life somewhere new and unknown and this can be very frightening at times, especially in the beginning. These feelings are very common and usually subside as you begin to settle into your new life.

  • Dealing with homesickness

    • Feeling homesick?

      PDF document

      How to recognise homesickness and ways to help yourself.

    Some more tips:

    • Look for clubs and societies that you might be interested in trying. You don't have to be an expert already to join, and you haven't missed out if you didn't sign up in Welcome Week - you can join during the year.
    • If you're an undergraduate student, speak to your Peer Mentor about getting to know others on your course or joining clubs and societies. If you are not sure who your Peer Mentor is, contact your Department or email
    • If you're living in University accommodation, ask your Residents' Assistant about ways to get to know others you are living with and how to get involved at university.
    • Look for student communities that you identify with.
    • Meet people at the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy.
    • Go to events that interest you.

    If you are still feeling isolated and lonely, you can speak confidentially with an adviser in Student Services. You can book a welfare appointment by telephone, via email or in person by visiting the Support Desk in your Student Services Hub.

Sometimes, however, these feelings can become overwhelming and develop into depression or other types of mental health problems. If you feel like this it's a good idea to seek help as soon as possible.

We ask students for permission to liaise with a named friend or family member if we have a serious concern about your health and safety. You can give permission on MyEssex.

When to ask for support

  • If you are feeling unhappy, stressed, anxious, finding it hard to cope and are concerned about your mental health.
  • If you would like to talk with someone about your mental health difficulties and how they are affecting your life at University.
  • If you have a diagnosed mental health difficulty and want some help liaising with others to minimise its impact on your studies.
  • How we can help

    Getting a diagnosis for mental health difficulties

    If you are having emotional or mental health difficulties, and want to discuss these, visit your Student Services Hub during our opening hours. If you require an official medical diagnosis of a mental health difficulty, you will need to make an appointment to see your doctor/GP who can discuss this with you and/or refer you to a specialist service if appropriate.

    Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) for mental health conditions

    Disabled Students' Allowance is government funding available to UK home students to help meet the extra costs you may face as a direct result of your disability, specific learning difficulty or long-term medical or mental health condition.

    If you have a diagnosed long-term mental health condition you may be eligible for DSA. This can fund extra equipment such as a digital recorder, as well as one-to-one support from a specialist mentor or tutor. You would need to provide evidence of your mental health difficulties (ie. a letter from your doctor/GP confirming your diagnosis and current treatment).


    A mentor can meet with you for regular appointments to offer:

    • help to manage your difficulties alongside your studies
    • practical and emotional support through listening and problem solving
    • assistance with independent learning and development of study skills
    • help with liaising with your department to make sure you have the support you need on your course
    • practical help in the library and help with organising your study space and study materials

    Applying for mentoring

    In order to apply for on-going mentoring, you will need to have received a diagnosis of a long-term mental health difficulty and apply for Disabled Students' Allowance as this can fund mentoring support for the duration of your studies. You will also need to provide evidence your diagnosis (ie. a doctor/GP letter when completing the form).

    If you would like to discuss mentoring or need any help with the application process then come to the disability drop-in during our opening hours or contact us.

    Getting active

    Being active is great for your physical health and fitness, and evidence shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing. Essex Sport offer a wide range of activities.

    The NHS have produced guidance on how to get active and the benefits exercise can give you.

    Contact our team

    Contact us to speak to our team and to find out more about how we can help you.

  • Depression

    Depression is a common mental health difficulty and the symptoms can be very disabling and make life feel like a struggle. If you feel that you're suffering some of the symptoms of depression, such as persistent low mood, tearfulness, sleep disturbance, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness it is a good idea to seek professional support. Doctors/GPs are trained and experienced in treating and managing depression, so you could make an appointment to see your doctor/GP.

    You can also visit your Student Services Hub. You may also want to look at organisations outside the University.

Worried about a friend or flatmate's mental health?

If you are concerned that a friend or flatmate may be experiencing some mental health difficulties, there are a number of ways you may be able to help them:

  • Symptoms of possible mental health issues

    You may be concerned because your friend or flatmate:

    • has changed a lot recently
    • seems depressed, tearful, anxious or paranoid
    • has stopped attending lectures or going out
    • seems to be acting self-destructively
    • has told you they don't want to go on living
    • is generally causing concern

  • Approach your friend

    It can be difficult to know how to approach someone who you think might be experiencing some mental health difficulties. You might worry that you will say the wrong thing or make the situation worse. You might be concerned that you are interfering or that the person will be angry or upset with you. However, it is very unlikely that it will make things worse and your friend may be very relieved to have the chance to talk about how they feel.

    Choose a time when you can be alone with your friend, in a private, quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Gently explain that you are concerned for them and explain what it is you are worried about. You may say something like, "It is difficult to say this, and I don’t want you to think that I am having a go at you or anything, but I care about you and I’m really worried about you..."

  • If your friend wants to talk

    Listen carefully to what your friend is saying without interruption. Sharing similar feelings can help your friend not to feel alone, but try to avoid saying "I know how you feel" or "that happened to me" and going into long stories about yourself, as that can make someone feel silenced or that their story is not so important.

    Ask your friend what they think would be helpful or what they think they need. Try to avoid making decisions for them or telling them what you would do in the same situation.

    You could remind your friend about the professional help available both on and off campus and give him or her information about the support services. You could then wait a few days and then ask them again how they are feeling, and if they have talked to anyone about their problems or concerns. If they haven’t, you could explore with them anything that could be holding them back from doing this. You could also offer to go with your friend to an appointment to offer them moral support.

    Try to:

    • Stay calm – appearing anxious can make your friend feel worse
    • Set limits – think about how much time, energy and attention you can offer – this won’t be limitless. You may need to set some boundaries
    • Say when you feel uncomfortable - eg. if your friend sends distressing texts and then doesn’t answer when you try to get in touch, explain calmly the effect this has on you, such as making you really worried
    • Look after yourself – take time out for yourself and keep up with the activities and other relationships that are important to you

  • If your friend doesn’t want to talk

    If your friend doesn’t want to talk, let them know that you are there for them if they want to talk at another time. You could ask if there is anything else you can do to help, such as socialising or doing something practical for them. Remind them of the range of support services available.

    If you remain concerned, you can always seek further advice from a mental health adviser in your Student Services Hub.


    • You are not responsible for another person's actions or feelings.
    • You cannot compel someone to seek professional help, all you can do is ensure they are aware of the services and encourage them to make an appointment. If they choose not to do this, it's their decision.
    • However, if their behaviour is affecting others badly - seek advice.
    • If you become concerned about your friend's immediate safety, or the safety of others, you should contact security or the police/ambulance on 999.

Further information