Starting university can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but it can also bring its own unique challenges. Nearly 50% of young people enter Higher Education. For many, university is their first time living independently away from established networks of family support. In adjusting to the student lifestyle, many students struggle to maintain healthy day-to-day routines and experience academic, social and financial pressures. In relation to diagnosable mental illness, many of these lifestyle pressures can result in irregular sleeping patterns, poor diet, work pressures, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption, which are all risk factors for developing mental illness.
“The first few weeks of university are so busy and hectic that you can have hardly any time to think about how you’re feeling and coping with such an enormous change; it can take time to adjust to getting into the routine of lectures and coursework.”
— Mary, graduate from The University of Nottingham
The Canadian organisation TeenMentalHealth.Org (led by internationally-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher) first created the Transitions and Know Before You Go resources to specifically respond to these issues. Their life skills resources help students to understand, anticipate and prepare for situations that they may encounter as they move out of school and into employment or further education. The resources were developed as a result of feedback from a large number of students who wished for dedicated advice and support when they started their first year of university or college.
At Student Minds, we recognised that there was a gap in the UK for engaging resources which really speak to sixth form, college and university students about this time of change, and we have collaborated with TeenMentalHealth.Org to bring these guides to the UK to support students through this transition period.
The guides cover issues ranging from learning how to live independently, how to get along with housemates, how to manage your own finances, how to deal with depression and other mental illnesses and seek help as needed…and much more. Whilst the guides have been adapted for a UK audience, the topics that are covered are also relevant to international students who have come to the UK to study.
“Having an in-depth knowledge of your mental wellbeing is key to managing your time at university but above all — enjoy yourself, it really is the most selfish, most exciting time of your life!”
— Student Mind’s Blogger
The guides are now available to download from Student Minds’ website, which also gives suggestions on how to engage with the materials for organisations and staff working with students. Launching the guides is the first phase of our Transitions to University project. We are excited to develop the guides further and receive feedback from everyone who uses the resources. Do take a look on the website for details of how to get in touch!
Download the new Transitions guidance, here: http://www.studentminds.org.uk/transitions.html
Louise is the Programme Development Manager for Student Minds and lead for the Transitions project. Students Minds is the UK's student mental health charity.
The Student Minds 'Look After Your Mate' campaign is cited as a good practice case study in the ProtectED Code of Practice; indicator 3.2.1 of the 'Student wellbeing and mental health' instrument requires member universities to formally recognise the role of students as supporters or 'invisible carers'.