Studying abroad can be an exciting and transformative experience, offering the opportunity to gain knowledge, make new friends, and explore a different culture.
However, being far from home and dealing with the pressures of academic life can sometimes lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. In this blog post, we will explore the signs and symptoms of depression, discuss the support available to international students in the UK, and emphasise the importance of seeking help when needed.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their background or circumstances. Recognising the signs and symptoms of depression is essential in identifying when you or someone you know might be struggling with it.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sadness or a feeling of emptiness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite, resulting in significant weight loss or gain
- Disruptions in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Fatigue or low energy levels, even with minimal physical or mental exertion
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-blame, or excessive guilt
- Restlessness, irritability, or agitation
- Physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or unexplained aches and pains
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or self-harm
It’s important to note that the presentation of depression can vary between individuals, and not everyone will experience the exact same set of symptoms. If you or someone you know is consistently displaying several of these symptoms over a period of time, it’s crucial to seek professional help and support.
Where in the UK Can You Get Support?
If you’re feeling depressed at uni, there are various services available to support individuals dealing with depression and other mental health concerns. The National Health Service (NHS) plays a vital role in providing accessible and comprehensive mental health services. Through the NHS, you can access primary care services, such as your general practitioner (GP), who can offer initial assessments, diagnosis, and treatment options. GPs may refer you to specialised mental health services, including community mental health teams or psychological therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).
Additionally, the NHS provides crisis support through helplines, such as the Samaritans, which offers confidential emotional support 24/7.
Moreover, universities and colleges in the UK often have dedicated counselling services to support students’ mental health needs. These services offer confidential counselling and therapeutic interventions, providing a safe space for students to express their feelings and receive guidance. Additionally, universities may organise well-being workshops, peer support groups, and online resources to enhance mental health support on campus.
Outside of the NHS and educational institutions, there are numerous charitable organisations and helplines operating across the UK that focus on mental health. Examples include Mind, a leading mental health charity providing information, support, and campaigning, and YoungMinds, which focuses on promoting mental health among children and young people.
Remember that seeking support for your mental health is a proactive step, and there are resources available to help you navigate and manage your depression effectively. If you are in immediate crisis or experiencing severe distress, do not hesitate to reach out to emergency services by dialling 999 or visiting the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.
Here is a list of some UK services and helpline numbers that provide support for depression and mental health:
Samaritans: A confidential helpline providing emotional support 24/7.
Helpline: 116 123
Mind: A leading mental health charity offering information, support, and advice.
Infoline: 0300 123 3393
NHS 111: Non-emergency medical advice and support available 24/7.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably): A helpline and webchat service for men experiencing mental health difficulties.
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58
PAPYRUS: A helpline for young people experiencing suicidal thoughts or those concerned about someone else.
HOPELINEUK: 0800 068 4141
What Support May Look Like
The support provided to students experiencing depression can vary, depending on their symptoms’ severity and individual needs. Counselling sessions often involve talking to a trained professional who will provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for you to express your thoughts and emotions. They can help you develop coping strategies, explore the root causes of your depression, and provide you with tools to manage your mental health effectively.
Universities may also offer support groups or workshops focused on mental health and well-being. These group settings provide an opportunity to connect with other students who may be going through similar experiences, fostering a sense of community and understanding.
In some cases, your counsellor may suggest other forms of support, such as medication or referrals to specialised mental health services outside the university. It’s important to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather a proactive step towards your well-being.
As an international student, there are several things you can do on your own to improve your mood and overall well-being while studying abroad:
- Establish a regular exercise routine, including activities like walking, jogging, or joining sports clubs.
- Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet, focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Build a support network by participating in social clubs, student organisations, or cultural events.
- Engage in activities you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, or pursuing hobbies.
- Explore your new environment, visit landmarks, and immerse yourself in the local culture.
- Practice self-reflection and mindfulness through activities like deep breathing exercises or journaling.
By incorporating these self-help strategies into your routine, you can enhance your mood and well-being as an international student.
As an international student in the UK, it’s essential to recognise that you are not alone in your struggles. Adjusting to a new country, studying in a demanding academic environment, and feeling isolated can undoubtedly take a toll on your mental health. However, it’s crucial to remember that there is support available to help you cope with depression.
If you notice any signs or symptoms of depression in yourself or someone else, it’s important to reach out for support. Your university or college will have dedicated services that can provide the guidance and assistance you need. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and by speaking up, you are taking an active role in your mental well-being.
Take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally, and make use of the resources available to you. Reach out to friends, family, or professionals when you need support, and remember that there are brighter days ahead. Your time as an international student in the UK can be a transformative and enriching experience, and with the right support, you can navigate the challenges and thrive academically and personally.