Prioritising Mental Health: Navigating Mental Health Awareness Week as a University Student

Mental Health Awareness Week in 2024 runs from Monday 13th May to Sunday 19th May. It is a UK-focused awareness campaign that is distinct from the US Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed every year since 1949.

It is a week dedicated to helping raise awareness of the mental health struggles that can afflict any person, in any circumstance. There has often been a stigma around discussing mental health issues, and this week is about empowering people to take control over how they perceive their own mental health and understand that if they are struggling, they are not alone.

Person holding another persons hand

What is the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year?

Mental Health Awareness Week this year takes a look at the importance of physical activity in helping our mental health. Staying active helps to boost our bodies and our minds, but it is important to realise that physical activity looks very different from one person to the next.

If there are barriers that prevent you from traditional physical activity, such as money, body image, accessibility, and a lack of open space in which to exercise, you can figure out how to #moveyourway.

It can be as easy as going for a short walk during your lunch break, getting off the bus or the train a stop early, or even dancing around your own home to the music that you love. Any kind of movement is good movement.

2 people running

Why is Mental Health Awareness Week important?

Mental Health Awareness Week is designed to help those people who are suffering from a mental health condition to overcome the stigma, speak to other people about how they are feeling and seek treatment.

Everyone benefits from this week aimed at raising awareness of a wide range of mental health issues.

A girl supporting another girl

Students and mental health

For university students, there are plenty of challenges along the journey of university life, with anxiety over heading back to university after a summer break, the cost of living crisis, and exam season stress, amongst other things.

Mental health worries can be bad for students from the UK, but there are other challenges for international students who are moving to a new country with a whole new language and culture to adjust to.

Luckily, we are living in a time where things are changing for the better in terms of how people talk about mental health, and this has meant that there is a greater number of people talking and providing us with a more accurate overall picture of the mental health of the country through the collected statistics that are now available.

Some of the challenges that could potentially lead to poor mental health for students include:

  1. Cost of living – it is getting more expensive for most people to live, with everyday costs on the rise and university fees high. The cost of living crisis for students is a real concern. Worrying about budgeting and long-term debt can have a negative impact on the mental health of students.
  2. Adapting to a new life – it can be challenging to move away from home for the first time and to adapt to looking after yourself. Moving to university might be the first time you cook for yourself, be responsible for a budget and learn how to manage your time.
  3. Loneliness – university life can also lead to loneliness for a lot of students, especially if they have struggled to get to grips with a new way of life or struggle to meet people and make new friends.
  4. Exam stress – exam season can pile pressure on to students to revise well enough to pass tough exams over a short period of time. Balancing life and studies becomes a greater challenge during exam season.
  5. Diverse needs – students from diverse backgrounds, including mature students, BAME, international students, and those with chronic physical disabilities or existing mental health conditions face specific challenges and require specific support.
  6. Pressures of work – balancing your university workload with a social life, extra-curricular activities and maybe even a part-time job is a challenge. If you don’t take time to work out the right balance it can lead to chronic stress and anxiety and leave you tired and physically overwhelmed.
  7. Create a ‘new’ you – university is often a time of life where people can discover new sides to themselves or create a whole new persona, shedding what they’ve left behind at home, adapting to new social circles, and redefining their own parameters and expectations from life.

Young student stressed

Getting the mental health support that you need

Even the thought of seeking help for your mental health might lead to anxiety and add to the pressures you are facing. Do not worry though, as there is plenty of help and support available to you.

The first thing you should do is try and speak to your friends and family about how you are feeling. They might be able to help you find the specific support you need or just help you with a safe space to talk honestly about your feelings.

If you do need a greater level of mental health support, make an appointment with your GP and also reach out to the student support services at your university to see what advice and guidance is available to you. Your tutors are also there to support you with whatever you need and not only your academic issues, so do not be afraid to reach out and speak to them too.

Person talking to a support group

We hope that this article has provided you with all the information you require about Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this year. There are countless reasons why you might be struggling with your mental health, and we hope that this has made it easier to spot the signs of poor mental health and to know that there is plenty of support out there for you if you need to talk to someone.

This could be your friends at university, university staff and mental health charities.