Signs to look out for so you know when to get mental health support

13 Apr 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Spotting the signs of poor mental health isn’t always easy, especially if you’re usually quick to brush things under the carpet.

And the impact of Covid-19 adds another layer of complexity. When many people are suffering at least a little with their emotional wellbeing, it can be easy to cast aside your own worries and assume we’re all in the same boat.

Unfortunately, in these circumstances, it can be all too simple to miss those early signs that something more serious may be afoot. And if you don’t address these issues early on, it can become much harder to deal with at a later stage, leading to prolonged mental health issues.

So, what signs should you look out for, and when should you ask for help? Here, I’ve highlighted some of the key signs to be wary of if you think your mental and emotional wellbeing is under pressure.

A jump in anxiety

Anxiety is a word that gets batted around a lot these days, but I think the meaning isn’t always clear and, more often than not, people don’t understand the seriousness of it.

Essentially, anxiety is a feeling of unease or fear that can start mildly and become more severe over time. Whereas most of us will feel this at some time or another (perhaps around a job interview or waiting for exam results), it’s when it becomes a constant companion that you should start to think about this carefully.

For some people, it can lead to problems such as:

  • A struggle to sleep
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness and heart palpitations

These symptoms can eventually leave people unable to lead normal lives, with simple acts of normality, such as heading out in public or socialising with friends, becoming big obstacles to overcome.

That’s why spotting the early signs of this is crucial. The more it starts to rule your life, the harder it can become to reach out for support.

So, if you’re feeling a constant buzz of anxiety right now, don’t let it fester. Reach out to family and friends and talk about your fears and, if this doesn’t help, don’t be scared to get in touch with a professional.

Tiredness and lack of energy

The workload might be kind of heavy right now, but don’t be quick to dismiss your tiredness as a simple case of a study hangover if it’s just not going away.

For example, if you’re spending hours sleeping, and yet still don’t feel energetic enough to get out and do things or interact with other people, you could be facing the early signs of depression.

Depression can affect people in different ways, but tiredness is a fairly common symptom of this. There might not be any particular reason for it either, as it could be a combination of things going on under the surface.

Contact your GP if:

  • You’re struggling to find motivation to deal with everyday life
  • You’re spending more time sleeping than normal
  • You’re no longer interested in hobbies you once enjoyed
  • You’re feeling hopeless, helpless or a sense of worthlessness

Other signs of depression can include (but are not limited to) feelings of sadness, change of appetite, increased irritation or thoughts about death.

If you have any of these symptoms, speaking to someone or accessing support anonymously through the likes of Student Space or Samaritans is absolutely vital. You do not have to suffer in silence.

For more guidance on who to speak to if you’re not feeling great, click here.

An oncoming burnout

Burnout is becoming increasingly recognised as a real issue, particularly as we put ourselves under more and more pressure to achieve academically, socially and in our personal lives than ever before.

And, with the likes of social media, it’s not hard to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and using it as fuel to work harder to reach unattainable goals. If you feel an oncoming burnout, it’s time to give yourself a little break with some self-care – or at least to share the burden by speaking to someone.

Signs to watch out for include:

  • Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Feeling drained or overwhelmed
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased feelings of negativity

Many of these symptoms can be linked to anxiety and depression, but the difference is that they can often be traced back to the issue that’s causing burnout in the first place.

Give yourself regular time-outs if things are starting to become too much, and don’t forget that your university has services in place to specifically help you if you’re struggling with your workload.

Where to find more information and support

There’s a wealth of resources out there to help you understand more about how to improve your mental health and make sure you’re putting your emotional wellbeing first.

You can find some great self-help tips from Mind on how to handle concerns such as anxiety right here. Student Minds has also put together an excellent checklist, which can help you keep a regular monitor on how you’re doing mentally, so you know when the right time is to reach out.

If you’d like to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, you may want to talk to whoever you feel most comfortable with. That could be family, friends, or staff at your university.

If you’d like outside help, Student Space (led by Student Minds) gives you the opportunity to get free, confidential support via phone, email, text or webchat. No matter how you’re feeling, someone will be there to listen.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.