My mental health and wellbeing

Looking after your mental health and emotional wellbeing during your studies is important.

There are plenty of easy, practical ways to do this, but there's also plenty of help and support for students who do experience periods of mental ill-health or have questions about their wellbeing.

Looking after your wellbeing during study

Your wellbeing is important. If you don't look after your health, succeeding in your studies will be much more difficult. 

You'll already know some of the best ways in which you personally like to relax and relieve stress and you'll already know that you should make time to do them. We know that it is hard to reach a good balance and you probably won't manage to do it every day. That's ok. What really matters is trying to reach that balance more often than not. Making it a priority to make time to do vital things like relaxing, sleeping and eating well will make a difference to your study experience. Getting an LSE degree is hard, but it will feel a whole lot harder if you're regularly pulling all-nighters and drinking lots of caffeine rather than planning a more sustainable study schedule. 

If you'd like to talk to someone about your wellbeing, The Disability and Wellbeing Service, the LSESU Advice team and the LSE Counselling team can help. There is no such thing as a problem or concern that is too small or irrelevant. If it matters to you, they can listen. You don't have to be at crisis point to make use of these services.

There are also plenty of tips for staying well during your studies online. Student Minds are just one example.

What is mental health?

Mental health is very similar to physical health; most of the time, most of us are mentally and physically well. For a number of complex reasons though, just as we may experience poor physical health, we can also become mentally unwell, experiencing any one of a number of different conditions.

Around 1 in 4 adults in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year. Symptoms and severity vary. Those experiencing mental health issues are not to blame for their conditions and should not feel ashamed. They can't just 'snap out of it', but with good support and care, most do recover and may never experience the condition again in their lives.

Amongst students, the most common mental health conditions are depression, anxiety and eating disorders but there are many different conditions that could affect people during study. You can learn more about the medical definitions of these conditions on the NHS website. There's also more guidance here about what different conditions look like and some examples of self-care techniques. 

My mental health

People have lots of different ways of looking after their mental health, from mindfulness to regular exercise and communicating with friends or family. These are all excellent ways to relieve stress and relax, but sometimes, they might not be enough on their own.

You may recently have noticed a change in your behaviours, thoughts and feelings, or perhaps someone else has pointed it out to you. You might also have looked at resources online or seen others suffering from similar symptoms that have been part of your daily life for some time and started to wonder whether they could be signs of a mental health condition.

It can be very frightening, but the first thing to do is seek support from a professional such as a GP or LSE Counsellor. They are trained to help and will not judge you. GPs will see any patient and LSE Counsellors will meet with any LSE student. You do not have to have been diagnosed with a mental health condition to meet with them. They won't tell your family, partner or teachers without your permission and in most cases, you don't have to follow any treatment programme they suggest.

If you have built a trusting relationship with your Mentor or another staff member, you may decide to disclose what's happening to them before you speak to a doctor or counsellor. They can help with any potential issues with your work and they can provide a supportive, listening ear, but they won't be able to take on the role of therapist for you as this wouldn't be in your best interests.

Mental health and studying

It's important to look after your mental health while studying. There's lots of tips from Mind, the mental health charity here.

If you do experience any mental health condition during your time at LSE, there is support available and it doesn't need to stop you from completing your degree. 

The Disability and Wellbeing Service, the LSESU Advice team and the LSE Counselling team have experience and training to support you as you make decisions and find out what works for you. Your Academic Mentor can also support you and guide you to the correct service if you need particular advice or information.

Sometimes, in order to get better, students need to take time away from LSE to focus on their health. In this case, an interruption or deferral could be the best options. You can find further information about the processes here.

My friend's mental health

If you are worried that a friend is experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, the most important thing to remember is that you cannot address your friend's issues all alone. You can help them by listening, being there and supporting them as much as you feel able to and by encouraging them to seek help from a professional.

If someone discloses that they have, or think they may have, a mental health condition remember:

  • You're not expected to have all the answers and it's ok not to know what to say.
  • The best things you can do are listen, be supportive and encourage them to look for professional support as soon as they're ready.
  • It's ok to sensitively ask questions.
  • It's ok to let your friend know if you're not able to provide support at that time, for whatever reason.
  • It's not ok to assume that you can diagnose and treat your friend, even if you have experienced similar symptoms in the past.
  • It's never ok to share medication or order prescription medicine from the internet, even if your friend has taken the same drug in the past.
  • It's not ok to gossip about your friend's disclosure with other friends or coursemates.
  • Unless your friend specifically asks you to, the only time you should pass on any information about their health is if you feel they may be a risk to themselves or others, in which case, you should speak with a member of staff. 

There are support services available to assist both of you and, while you may decide to seek support confidentially at first, it's not being disloyal to ask for more help or encourage your friend to seek professional support. You could speak to your Academic Mentor or another staff member you trust, The Disability and Wellbeing Service, the LSESU Advice team or the LSE Counselling team for help and advice in the first instance.

More advice on what you can do can be found here.

How are mental health conditions treated?

For most people, mental health conditions cannot be dealt with just by 'being stronger' or 'getting on with it'. Effective treatments often involve many different types of support from friends, family and trained professionals such as the LSE Counsellors, your GP or other NHS services such as their online portal or Talking Therapies. Some conditions may be eased with medication.

The earlier help is sought, the quicker the most appropriate support can be provided.

What is the School's Fitness to Study Policy?

We understand that sometimes medical, psychological, behavioural or emotional problems, or other adverse circumstances, may affect students’ fitness to study.  Or indeed, that studying itself can occasionally contribute to a deterioration in students’ wellbeing and health.  The School wants to do everything it can to help students in this position and to find ways to support them to continue studying wherever possible, or if not to help them arrange a suitable break from their studies.  LSE has developed a Fitness to Study policy to provide guidance on such circumstances.

The policy sets out a framework of support to study that is necessary to ensure fairness in terms of fitness to study for all students, and to ensure the LSE applies due process when considering and determining students’ fitness to study.  It is not a disciplinary process and should be seen fundamentally as a way of staff supporting students to ensure that they can wherever possible continue to study with appropriate levels of support in place to ensure their continued wellbeing.