Common triggers of student mental distress

Being a university student is a great and rewarding experience, but it can also be quite intense and emotionally challenging. At some point during their studies many students are likely to experience symptoms of distress due to the following:

Personal Financial Career Health Social
Balancing study and other commitments Financial difficulties Future employment Substance misuse e.g. alcohol, drugs Difficulties making friends
Personal, family or relationship problems Looking for a job for during my studies Gaining additional experience Students with a disability / long-term health issue Social pressures/fitting in
Caring responsibilities (e.g. caring for a child or another adult) Accommodation / housing Unsure of future career goals New diagnosis of a health issue and coping with it OR lack of diagnosis Sexuality related distress- acceptance from others
Feelings of homesickness Loans Lack of confidence Side-effects of medication Adjusting to new culture
Major life events- bereavement, break up of a relationship Relying on your parents / carer for money Bullying or harassment

In addition, at different levels of studying students may become stressed by different academic experiences (this list is not exhaustive and not everyone falls neatly into these categories):


  • Jump in academic expectations (e.g.from A-level)
  • Course workload deadlines
  • Exams (including revision)
  • Grades/academic performance

Taught Masters

  • Jump in academic expectations (e.g. from undergraduate degree or job)
  • Intense workload (1 year programme)
  • Exams (including revision)
  • Dissertation writing
  • Grades/academic performance


  • Jump into a research environment (e.g. from MA degree or job)
  • Research deadlines
  • Academic performance
  • Procrastination
  • Isolation

If you are concerned about your mood, try the NHS mood self-assessment quiz.