Mental Health & Wellbeing

There are many different definitions of mental health/wellbeing but they generally include areas such as: life satisfaction, optimism, self esteem, mastery and feeling in control, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support.

During the course of their life most people will visit a doctor for an issue related to their physical health, at least once. Your mental health is no different! Just as you may have stomach cramps or a cold from time to time, you can also suffer from very low moods or feel overly irritable. Our body and mind respond to situations in our lives, both good and bad. So just as you take care of yourself when you have the flu, it is important to take care of your mental health when you don’t feel your best. It is also important to remember that the same way you eat fruit and vege, keep hydrated and exercise in order to keep your immune system strong and prevent physical illness, there are things you can do to “exercise” your mind as well! However, some people can experience severe mental distress that causes great disruption to their daily life often without any visible cause or stressful situation. In such cases a mental health professional might diagnose such people with a particular type of mental illness.

Therefore it is important to distinguish between:

  • Mental health difficulties: Feelings of mental and emotional distress (e.g. feeling low, anxious, stressed) that are brought on by life situations. These feelings can be quite strong and have a significant effect on your life but can usually be helped through self-help and/or low to medium interventions and are not a diagnosable illness.
  • Mental illness: Mental illness refers to a diagnosable condition that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities e.g. depression, anxiety, schizophrenia. We all suffer from symptoms of mental health difficulties (e.g low mood, anxiety, insomnia, etc.) from time to time, but having a mental illness means that those symptoms have a chronic and significant impact on a person’s daily life for a longer period of time.

(adapted from

Common symptoms of mental distress:

(source: NUS survey)

Depressed Anxious Hyper Harmful Other
Lack of energy or motivation Anxiety Can’t stop moving, thinking (Thoughts of) self-harm Sudden mood changes
Feeling unhappy/down/low Irritability or anger Irritability or anger Suicidal thoughts Hypersensitivity to others
Depressed feeling Stress Too much energy / feeling like you are going to burst Drinking alcohol to cope Paranoia
Feeling of hopelessness / worthlessness Panic Using drugs Another feeling of distress
Numbness / lack of emotion Insomnia / trouble sleeping


Our thermometer can help you gauge your state of mental health and guide you to the appropriate services available.


Sucidal thoughts or behaviour
Having an episode of psychosis
Doing something that could put yourself or other people at risk

Action: Call 999 or go to the Accident and Emergency (A&E)


Intense and ongoing symptoms of emotional distress that have a serious impact on your daily life but you are not in immediate danger.

Action: GP, mental health providers (e.g. NHS therapy, The Tuke Centre, York Mind)


Ongoing symptoms of emotional distress that have a moderate impact on your daily life, often connected to life situations.

Action: Open Door Team, GP, York Mind, self-help, talk to a friend or family member, talk to your college team, mindfulness skills


Occasional symptoms of emotional distress connected to life situations (e.g. exams, relationship…)

Action: Self-help, talk to a friend or family member, talk to your college team, mindfulness skills


Feelings that things you do in life are worthwhile, high levels of satisfaction and low levels of anxiety

Action: Building resilience – mindfulness skills, get enough sleep and eat well, be active, talk to friends and family regularly.