Self-help leaflets

In this section, we have addressed some of the issues students face, whether they are study-related or to do with personal or emotional difficulties. 

For each area below, you will find a PDF and word document link, all of which open in a new window.



Alcohol is used mainly in social situations and can influence both enjoyment and misery. Problems  can occur when too much alcohol is consumed especially over a period of time.  

Some people may start to rely on alcohol in order to feel ok or to cope with problems in their life.    

Alcohol can have physical effects, which includes balance, the ability to react quickly, hangovers, and vomiting.  

In the long term, alcohol dependence can lead to liver disease. 

It is fairly common to use alcohol to give a bit of ‘Dutch courage, for example, when meeting new people. But too much alcohol can lower mood with depressive symptoms and affect memory. 

Getting drunk can also lead people to 

  • behave out of character e.g. withdrawn or loud 
  • relationships with loved ones and friends can be affected 
  • some people become aggressive/start fighting  
  • it can leave people vulnerable to harm as they are less aware of their surroundings/risk 
  • it can lead to money troubles and accidents. 

Too much alcohol can affect our ability to work and our confidence in what we do. There is also a connection between alcohol and depression. 


This works in two ways. On the one hand, regular drinking can leave us with hangovers, feeling guilty, jittery, anxious, tired and depressed. On the other, we then drink more to relieve us of our depressive feelings, and with the benefits wearing off quite quickly, so more alcohol is needed to have the same effect, and so the cycle goes on. 



It is pretty much the same story with drug use.

Temporary gains e.g. enhanced good mood, can be achieved but may come at a considerable cost to mental health and wellbeing. Some drugs become hard to resist and dependency may creep up on people without them realising.  The urge to use can be difficult to control and reliance on some drugs can seriously affect people's lives and the lives of those around them.  

Stopping use of a substance may lead to a state of withdrawal with physical and psychological symptoms. Drug use, like use of alcohol, can lead to an increase in depressive feelings; disrupted social relationships; accidents; physical illness, debt and sometimes criminal behaviour to pay for drug use. 


Causes of drug and alcohol problems 

The causes are wide and varied, with several factors being important: ease of availability; peer pressure and other social factors; a way of coping with stress; low self-esteem and as an escape from other personal problems. A family member or family unit can influence a person's relationship with alcohol and drugs (prescription and illegal). E.g. An individual may learn that alcohol is a social activity reserved for special occasions or something to be used on a regular basis as a way of life. 


Changing habits 

The first few steps are to recognise there is a problem and to want to do something about it. It is often useful to enlist the help of a friend or family member as a confidante (although sometimes you may have to consider changing some of your friendship groups). Keeping a diary of your use can alert you to the truth of your situation. 

Other help can come in several forms. Doctors can help with substance dependency and offer replacement medication to help with both the dependency and the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. There are many campaigns around to stop smoking cigarettes. 

Counselling and psychotherapy can help in terms of support while looking at some of the stresses and underlying feelings which may have contributed to the dependency. 

Support groups can also be very useful, often with ex-users among the people available for support. And while it can be difficult and feel embarrassing to admit that there is a problem, for fear of judgement from family, friends, your doctor, and other bodies, good sources of help, like those listed below are likely to be understanding, accepting and supportive. Admitting you have a problem with alcohol or drugs takes courage and shows strength.  


Addictions support:  

  • Talk to Frank, has a free and confidential drug information and advice line on tel: 0300 123 6600; visit: 
  • Alcoholics Anonymous - help to recover from alcoholism :tel:0800 9177 650; or visit 
  • Aquarius - substance misuse charity based in the West Midlands –or tel: 0300 200 2400; or visit  


You might also like to look at: 


You might like to talk to: 

  • Your doctor  
  • NHS 111 to get medical help tel: 111 or visit: 
  • Students’ Union Advice and Representation Centre (ARC) –  tel: 01902 322038; or visit   
  • Samaritans - provides confidential, emotional support 24 hours a day on tel: 116 123; visit 


 Other useful websites: 


Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety can be caused by external demands or situations, such as environmental, financial or social circumstances or other uncertainties. It can also be caused by internal expectations, attitudes or demands we place on ourselves.

Anxiety can affect us:

  • emotionally (what we feel and think)
  • physically (changes within our bodies)
  • behaviourally (what we do and how we act)

Symptoms of anxiety

The most significant symptoms that you may experience are fear and worry. Additional symptoms that may follow are listed below and can vary in intensity and length.

Emotional symptoms:

  • confusion
  • worry
  • dread
  • apprehension
  • unease
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • tearfulness
  • feeling out of control


Physical symptoms:

  • racing heartbeat
  • sweating
  • cold, clammy hands
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • sleep and appetite disturbance


Behavioural symptoms:

  • being argumentative
  • increased aggression
  • rushing around
  • avoiding or escaping social situations

Overcoming your anxiety

Understanding where your anxiety is coming from will help you to control and reduce it. You may want to see a counsellor to
get help with this.

Here are some further steps for reducing anxiety.

• Take up physical exercise or a new hobby – do something you will enjoy!
• Distraction techniques can help eg. focusing on an object and describing it in detail (shape, size and colour) or imagining pleasant situations, either remembered, or fantasies of your own making.
• Manage your time better, and take some time out of the day to devote to yourself.
• Challenge your negative thinking – be aware when you use words such as ‘must, ‘should’ and ‘ought’.
• Express yourself! Be more open about your feelings rather than bottling things up.
• Avoid alcohol and/or drugs. Either can make your stresses and problems worse in the long term.
• Talk about it – with friends or those you feel close to and trust.
• Try eating more healthily and keeping a regular sleeping pattern – healthy and routine patterns will help your body deal with anxiety better.
• Try some mindfulness techniques (see under ‘Other useful websites’ for details).

Panic attacks

A panic attack describes an episode of intense anxiety. As mentioned earlier, anxiety develops more gradually, is less intense and lasts longer than a panic attack.

The symptoms of a panic attack usually develop abruptly, peak at around 10 minutes, and generally end within 20-30 minutes.

Symptoms of a panic attack

  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Palpitations/ racing heartbeat
  • Thoughts of dying
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness, trembling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and tingling

Coping with a panic attack

Controlled breathing is key – becoming aware of how you are breathing can slow down the panic attack. You can do this by breathing slowly through your nose and exhaling longer than you inhale.

Remind yourself that the panic attack will go away – it is not harmful, just unpleasant and uncomfortable as it is an exaggeration of our normal response to stress.

Divert your attention – think of something else. Concentrate on what is around you and become aware of your senses of smell, sight, sound and touch.

Think positively – repeat to yourself “I know I can get through this” and stop the ‘what if…’ thoughts which could heighten your negative feelings.


People you might want to contact

  • Your doctor
  • NHS 111 on tel: 111
  • The Samaritans on tel: 116 123
  • No Panic support helpline, tel: 0800 138 8889, crisis number 01952 680 835 or visit:

Other useful websites:

Useful leaflets:


Download and print 

Download the leaflet as a PDF document Anxiety and panic attacks

Download the leaflet as a Word document Anxiety and panic attacks (Word doc 1,207k)

 Becoming Assertive

Tips on how to become more assertive


What is assertiveness?

When being assertive, we not only retain the ability to respect and value ourselves (our needs, desires, and feelings), but also respect and value the needs, desires and feelings of others.


The result of assertive communication is that both we and those we are interacting with are more likely to:

  • feel heard
  • be understood
  • have our, or their needs met.


Why might we not be assertive?

We may not be assertive because of negative messages we have taken in or internalised about ourselves due to past criticisms. These may have undermined our self- esteem.


As a result, when we’re challenged by others in life, we either avoid confrontation by caving in – believing that we don’t deserve to have our own needs met – or we give in to demands because we’re desperate to please people.


On the other hand, we may go on the attack too readily, not believing that we can get our needs met by any means other than aggressive ones.


Examples of assertiveness

Assertiveness is often best illustrated when contrasted with other styles of relating, eg. passivity (which may sometimes involve subtle manipulation), or aggression. Here are some examples.

 1. Someone you work with is trying to persuade you to do something that you consider unreasonable eg. to do extra work at short notice, when you’ve already made plans.

 Passive response:

“Hmmmmm… (feeling guilty) OK… I don’t mind (not being honest). If it will help you out of a jam, and if you really need me, I’ll do it. I’ll have to cancel on my friend, (feeling resentful, and wanting to send signals in order to make other person feel bad), but I’ll do it…”

 Aggressive response:

“There’s no way I’m doing that! You can .........! I’m not helping someone who doesn’t treat me with respect!” (feeling hurt and victimised, and hence, wanting to lash out).

 Assertive response:

“I can see that you’re desperate for my help, but I can’t work any more now, as I’ve already made other plans. I’m sorry I can’t help you this time, but I’d be happy to work another night if you give me a bit of prior warning.” (Whilst having shown understanding, you feel justified in refusing the request, because you value yourself and your plans).


2. Your friend comes in and has a go at you because she’s had a bad There are similarly a number of ways in which you could respond. 

Passive response:

“I’m really sorry if I’ve upset you. I’ve put my foot in it again, haven’t I? I‘m like that, I’m afraid: always saying the wrong thing. Perhaps it would be best if I go out and leave you in peace.”

Aggressive response:

“I can’t believe you’re talking to me like that. You always fly off the handle at the smallest thing. Well, I’m not standing for it! Why don’t you p*** off, and not bother coming back!” 

Assertive response:

“I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad day, but I’m feeling attacked, right now. It feels like you’re taking your anger out

on me. Why don’t we leave this aside for the moment, and talk about it later when we’ve both had a chance to calm down?”


How can we be assertive?

It can be hard to be assertive, especially in confrontational situations. We may feel attacked to such an extent that we feel an instant need to defend ourselves, and subsequently, go on the counter-attack ourselves.

On the other hand, we may back down because we don’t want to risk ‘rocking the boat’, worrying that we might alienate the other person or lose their friendship.

The key to responding in an assertive way is to develop greater self-esteem and self-confidence, which allows us to value ourselves, and believe that our needs are just as important as those of others. We don’t need to feel selfish when we ask for something for ourselves, nor to feel mean or bad if we have to refuse a request (see above examples).

It takes practice but it is worth developing assertiveness skills – in the end you feel better, as do those around you. An assertive person will not let him/herself be taken advantage of but instead is able to communicate what he/she really wants in a clear, respectful, honest and appropriate manner.


You might find it helpful to:

  • attend one of our workshops on this and related subjects. 
  • read some of our other leaflets: Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks; Overcoming the fear of failure; Managing your stress; Developing confidence and self-esteem; Combating anger; Mindfulness. 
  • read: Lindenfield, (2001) Assert Yourself: Simple steps to getting what you want. London: Thorsons

Other people you might want to contact:

  • Your doctor
  • NHS 111, calls are free from landlines and mobiles, tel: 111
  • The Samaritans for 24-hour confidential support – tel: 01902 426 422 or 08457 90 90 90 or visit:

Other useful websites


Download and print 

Bereavement and loss

Bereavement and loss (Word doc 1,244k)

Loss and grief are natural processes which we need to go through in order to continue with our normal lives. The death of someone close may be one of the most severe forms of loss we have to experience.

Coping with bereavement or a major loss can be particularly difficult both emotionally and physically at university, for a variety of reasons.

Feelings we may experience after a major loss or when someone dies

• loneliness
• anger
• numbness or ‘nothing’
• denial
• shock
• poor concentration
• feeling out of control
• irritability and/or tearfulness

Additionally, we may find ourselves affected in the following ways:

• tightness in chest
• lack of energy
• socially withdrawn
• preoccupied
• unable to cope with daily tasks
• sleep and/or appetite disturbance

How long will it take?

Everyone has their own natural grieving time which cannot be rushed.

Grieving is such an individual process that it would be impossible to put a time limit on when things will begin to become ‘normal’.

We are likely to experience both good and bad days but most people find that gradually, as time goes by, things do become easier and the intensity of feelings is reduced.

Try not to

• Try not to hold all your feelings inside. This will only work towards prolonging the pain and agony of your loss. Instead, expressing or verbalising your pain can help you make sense of it.
• Try not to avoid talking about it. Giving yourself permission to talk about your experience will help you get through this at a pace that will feel right to you.
• Try not to expect that you will be over it quickly. It will take time and you may need to give yourself space to allow for this.
• Try not to be too hard on yourself. Be kinder to yourself and gradually day-to-day activities will become easier to manage and you will feel less negative about yourself and about situations around you.

What might help?

• Talking to someone you trust can help you to start working through your feelings.
• Expressing your feelings can enable you to understand what your emotions are and to make sense of them.
• Trying to accept the range of feelings you might be experiencing and working through them will help you to start understanding the process you are going through.
• Finding a way to say goodbye can help you to begin to let go and grieve.
• Letting your tutor or manager know may enable you to manage your course or work better – allowing you space to grieve. If your work is affected speak to your tutor or manager, as it may be possible to get help with deadlines or workloads for a short while.
• Using the support services that you have around you will provide you with space and a listening ear.
• Keep some mementoes – if you have lost a person special to you perhaps you could keep a photo to remind you of them.

Finally, please remember

Losing a loved one can be hard under any circumstances. However, the process we go through is quite normal and gradually the pain of our loss and how we experience it will lessen and we can learn to live with it.

People you might want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS, tel: 111
• Cruse Bereavement Care – tel: 0844 477 9400
• The Samaritans, tel: 116 123

Other useful websites

Cruse Bereavement Care:
The Royal College of Psychiatrists:
NHS (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear) - Use the leaflet search category “Self Help”
MIND mental health organisation:


Bullying (Word doc 1,245k) 


Combating anger

Combating anger (Word doc 1,244k) 

Feeling and expressing anger is a healthy response to certain events in our lives. For some of us, however, anger is a constant or repetitive way of being. This kind of anger is physically bad for our health: it ruins our relationships and can leave us feeling depressed and alone.

What are the signs that our anger might be a problem?

  • You’re unable to deal with difficult situations without becoming angry or aggressive.
  • You need to get angry to make yourself feel better.
  • People avoid you because they are wary of you, or try to please you to keep you calm.
  • You avoid some people or situations because you know that you won’t be able to control your anger.
  • You often feel embarrassed or regret the way you have behaved.
  • You have health problems that could be related to excessive anger, eg. high blood pressure.

Here are a few examples of situations that could lead to the development of unhealthy anger:

  • A recent traumatic or difficult event that has been damaging to us, eg. being betrayed by a loved one, or suffering a bereavement
  • Past traumas may lead to excessive anger, which stays with us, because we feel constantly under threat
    Anger sometimes feels to us like a more acceptable or ‘safer’ emotion to express than sadness or vulnerability
  • Maybe you don’t know or haven’t realised you can behave differently
  • Anger can be a symptom of a physical or psychological illness, eg. those that involve high levels of pain; an altered hormonal level; or a mental health difficulty.

How can I manage my anger?

  • Look at what’s ‘in’ the anger to see what other feelings or recent/past events may be underlying the anger. If we peel back our anger, or look at what is behind it, do we find that it is covering up something else that is even less easy to deal with, e.g. sadness, shame, worthlessness etc.?
  • Remember that refusing to acknowledge angry feelings will not make them go away.
  • Try to understand what is the gain from letting rip with your anger eg. it might feel better afterwards; or send a message to others that you’re not a push-over. But maybe it’s a short term gain?
  • Consider what else could bring you the same positive feelings, eg. being assertive, instead of aggressive.
  • Think about ways to develop a less stressful, more relaxed way of life – perhaps increased exercise.
  • Relax! Alter your breathing patterns so that you hold each breath for 5 seconds and then breathe out.
  • Relax! Tense and relax all your muscles slowly in turn.
  • Relax! Slowly count up to ten in your head, sing music in your head, or imagine a relaxing scene. These all have a de-stressing function.
  • Avoid stimulants such as alcohol or drugs.
  • Try practising some mindfulness exercises.

You might like to read

Lindenfield, G. (2000) Managing Anger. London: Thorsons

Other leaflets in this series: Becoming Assertive

People you might want to contact

  • Your doctor
  • NHS Direct – tel: 0845 46 47
  • The British Association of Anger Management: 0345 1300 286 or visit:

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Advice from Mind:

Useful leaflets:

Health A-Z at:

Free meditation exercises:

Dealing with depression

Dealing with depression (Word doc 1,292k)

Typical symptoms of depression

Everyone feels ‘down’ from time to time; our changing moods are a normal part of life. Usually the experience of feeling ‘down’ passes and we forget all about it. However, if the feeling is persistent, and more intense than simply ‘having a bad day’, then it could be depression.

The following list is not exhaustive, and is meant as a guide only. However, if several of these symptoms apply to you, and persist over time, you may be depressed.

• Sleep disturbance – not sleeping as much as usual; interrupted sleep or early waking on a regular basis, sleeping far more than usual.
• Change in appetite – eating much less/more than usual, resulting in weight loss/gain.
• Loss of interest in things which you used to find engaging and pleasurable.
• Feelings of worthlessness.
• Being more easily roused to anger, or prone to cry.
• Loss of energy and motivation.
• Loss of sex drive.
• Feeling ‘out of it’, not part of the world around you.

Feeling that life is pointless, and maybe considering suicide.

Depression is quite a common experience. If you think you may be depressed, consider telling someone. Think about seeing a counsellor, and/or your GP.

Don’t worry: there is help out there to cope with depression and work towards feeling more positive about life again.

Possible causes of depression

It is not always possible to determine the cause of depression, but this does not usually mean that improvements in mood are unattainable. Depression seems to be linked to events or circumstances which we find deeply distressing, and are unable to change.

Hormonal and chemical changes are sometimes said to be responsible. Some of the following may result in depression:

• the end of a relationship
• bereavement
• unemployment
• an accident, assault or other trauma
• moving to a new place
• the cumulative effects of several important changes occurring in a relatively short space of time
• childhood difficulties
• feeling overwhelmed by too many responsibilities
• academic difficulties, fear of failure
• feeling isolated and uncared for
• feeling unable to express your feelings.

Helping yourself

Depression can be very isolating, because it encourages withdrawal. However, contact with other people helps fight depression. If possible, spend time with people who care about you.

• Confide in someone.
• Establish a routine which involves a range of varied activities, because external stimulation is helpful in disrupting cycles of negative thinking and lifting your mood.
• Try to get out each day. Some people find that daylight, and especially, bright sunlight, helps them.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise boosts energy and releases chemicals in the brain which fight depression.
• Try to eat regularly. Long periods with little or no food increases the likelihood of feeling depressed.
• Try to avoid being too hard on yourself. Instead, try to appreciate yourself more. Give yourself credit for any selfhelp steps you’re taking to improve your mood.
• Try to challenge your negative thinking.
• Cut down on alcohol and illegal drugs, as the after-effects can seriously dampen your spirits as a result of chemical changes in the brain.
• Consider learning some mindfulness techniques.

Help from your GP and counselling

Doctors see many people who are suffering from depression. Your doctor will be able to discuss with you the merits of different forms of help. Modern anti-depressants can be effective in helping to lift your mood in order that you can deal with any difficulties in your life that may be contributing to the depression. However, these may take up to three weeks to begin taking effect. They’re usually not addictive, and often, any side-effects are mild and short-lived. Counselling can also offer a means to gain professional support, and a way to work through and understand some of the underlying causes of your depression.

On occasions, counselling and anti-depressants can actually work together as the most effective means of treatment.

You might find it helpful  to:

• attend one of our workshops on related subjects.
• read some of our other leaflets: Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks; Overcoming the fear of failure; Dealing with stress; Developing confidence and self-esteem; Combating anger; Mindfulness.
• read: Griffin, J. and Tyrell, I. (2004) How to lift depression[… fast]: the human givens approach. East Sussex: HG Publishing

Other people you might want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS 111, calls are free from landlines and mobiles, tel: 111
• The Samaritans for 24-hour confidential support – tel: 01902 426 422 or 116 123 or visit:
• Campaign Against Living Miserably (mainly for men) on tel:0800 58 58 58 or visit:

Other useful websites

Depression Alliance:


Students Against Depression:

MoodGYM (an online self-help package):

MIND: the mental health charity:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists:

NHS (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear) a range of self-help guides

Feeling suicidal

Feeling suicidal (Word doc 1,244k)

You may be having suicidal thoughts yourself, or you could be concerned about someone you know. For those who are feeling suicidal, it is important to seek help, or talk to somebody, at the earliest possible opportunity.

We acknowledge that currently, you (or your friend) may be feeling as though there is little hope for the future, that there seems to be no alternative, or that you (or they) would just like the pain to cease. However, our research and our experience with survivors of suicide attempts suggest that when the crisis is past, those who have
made an attempt on their lives are relieved that they did not succeed.

We acknowledge that someone who is feeling suicidal may feel their problems are insurmountable. They may be feeling overwhelmed, angry, unable to cope, alone, lonely, guilty or hopeless. Experience, however, shows us that there is usually the opportunity for things to be different if they are given the opportunity to talk or take other action.

And it is important to be reminded of something that seems so obvious when thinking rationally: death is permanent!

Ideas for seeking help/talking it through

Try speaking to someone right now. Here are some options, depending on what time of day the crisis is happening:

• A good friend
• A partner
• A member of your family
• Your doctor
• Someone from the University Counselling Service
• Someone from the Chaplaincy
• Someone in a position of responsibility
• A crisis phoneline and a crisis team

Immediate concern

From time to time, there are those of us who experience suicidal feelings and thoughts, but if someone is actually talking seriously about making an attempt on their life, this is different. Where they show a firm intention to proceed, try not to leave them, particularly if they have the means to go through with it. And as soon as you can, involve others, get help; the emergency services if necessary.

Helping someone you know

It may be difficult to know how to react to someone you think may be having thoughts about suicide, or someone who has mentioned such feelings to you. However, here are one or two ideas which might help you to help them:

• Often, people who are thinking of killing themselves need to talk things through with someone who will not judge them, but they may not be sure how to start or who they can trust. Let them know you will listen,
take them seriously and not dismiss their thoughts as ‘attention seeking’.

• Do not worry about talking about suicide, or being accused of planting the idea in someone’s head. When depressed, suicidal thoughts can be around, (although not everybody who is depressed has them). If a person
has been thinking of suicide, they will often be relieved and grateful that you are willing to be open-minded and non-judgmental. It shows you truly care and take them seriously.

• Try to retain your own sense of purpose; it is useful for you and your friend to try not to give up hope, despite a feeling that there aren’t any answers. You can listen while remembering that with time, care and attention, most difficulties can be solved.

• Acknowledge to yourself how much you can take on. Once the crisis is over, you yourself might want to contact some of the services listed overleaf in order to have an idea of what steps could be taken to get support for the person you know, and yourself.

• Note that particularly vulnerable people include those who are drunk or under the influence of drugs; those who have attempted suicide before; or those who have a clear idea of how they are going to do it.

• Anybody who has made an attempt on their life should be seen by a medical expert, even if they look okay, as the harmful effects, particularly of an overdose, can sometimes be delayed. Professional help does not have to be long term, although those suffering from depression, or other mental health difficulties, may want help over a longer period of time.

• You can seek help from the University Mental Health and Wellbeing, either if you yourself are feeling suicidal, or if you are worried about someone else.

You might like to look at:

Samaritans website – visit:

Befrienders Worldwide website –

SANEline website – visit:

Papyrus, a voluntary UK organisation for the prevention of young suicide and the promotion of mental health website – visit:

Students Against Depression website – visit:

People you might want to contact

Samaritans: Specialists in despair and suicidal thinking –tel: 01902 426 422 or tel: 08457 90 90 90, or visit:

• Emergency services – tel: 999

Your local A&E hospital:

• New Cross Hospital, Wednesfield Road, Wolverhampton, WV10 0QP. Tel: 01902 307 999

• Manor Hospital, Moat Road, Walsall, WS2 9PS. Tel: 01922 721172

• Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Mytton Oak Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 8XQ. Tel: 01743 261 000


Loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation (Word doc 1,245k)


Homesickness (Word doc 8k)

The experience of loneliness

The experience of ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ can easily happen in a university setting. Here, we are surrounded by many people, often of a similar age and supposedly with similar interests, all of whom appear to be making friends and forming groups with ease and confidence.

Despite this we can feel lonely:

• Not knowing anyone: it may be the first time in years that we have had to make new friends
• When we move from familiar surroundings to new, unknown ones, we can feel alienated from everything around us
• Trying to maintain long distance relationships with people who are important to us
• When we feel that there is no one with whom we are close enough to share these feelings
• Because we might find it easier to spend time alone, either studying or working.

You are not alone

It is far more common than people think for students to feel self-conscious, lonely or awkward around people.

A study on loneliness and isolation in universities found that 17% of students suffered serious self-doubt and isolation, significantly higher than the general population, (Woffas, 2002).

Past studies have shown that those more likely to suffer loneliness include students living off campus, or a long way from university; overseas, part-time and mature students; and those studying on joint-honours programmes, who feel they don’t belong to either of their ‘home’ Schools or Faculties.

A person who experiences loneliness might feel:

• Socially inadequate and unconfident
• Unwanted, unloved or rejected
• That there is something wrong with them
• Resentful or angry towards others

Coping with change

It is perhaps not surprising that loneliness and isolation are more acute in higher education, given the great changes involved in starting a new life at university. Not only might we be
leaving our family and home (and perhaps pets, too), but also long-term friendships.

Adjusting to an unfamiliar lifestyle, culture, or environment, perhaps studying in different ways, and living more independently, can make us feel unsure of what to do and how to be.

For some the experience may be familiar, but for others it can result in feeling acutely disappointed that university is not what was expected.

Things you can do to help yourself

Remember that loneliness is a common feeling, but it is something that can be changed.

• Getting a job or taking a voluntary role both mean you’re likely to meet people quickly.
• By being a good friend to others you can increase the opportunities for creating friendship.
• Join a society or club (there are over 30 in the Students’ Union). By pursuing your interests you increase the chances of meeting like-minded people.
• Don’t wait for others to come to you (they may be feeling the same). While it may feel safe to be on your own, taking a little risk in putting yourself out there could make a big difference to how you feel about yourself.
• On the other hand, don’t deprive yourself of things you like doing simply because there is nobody to do them with.
• Courage comes after the event, not before it!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, speak to someone about your feelings – a friend, a parent, your Personal Tutor, your doctor, or a professional counsellor.

Don’t underestimate the relief which you may obtain from professional help.

You might like to read

Butler, G. (2008) Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: a Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive-Behavioural Techniques. New York: Basic Books

Csoti, M. (2006) Overcoming Loneliness and Making Friends. London: Sheldon Press

People you might want to contact

• Your doctor
• Samaritans (provides confidential, emotional support 24 hours a day) – tel: 01902 426 422 or tel: 116 123 or visit: 
• NHS 111 – tel: 111
• Befrienders (international support offered (international support offered by Samaritans) website – visit:

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Advice from Mind:

Useful leaflets:

Managing stress

Managing stress (Word doc 1,246k)

What is stress?

We all talk about stress... too much on our minds... too much to do... too many unreasonable demands… situations over which we have no control...

“Stress is a psychological and physical response of the body that occurs whenever we must adapt to changing conditions, whether those conditions are real or perceived”.

The symptoms of stress occur when we feel that the demands placed upon us exceed our ability to cope.
Stress, however, is a normal part of life and occurs in all kinds of situations, both negative and positive, for example work deadlines; illness; financial difficulties; relationship difficulties; changes in our lifestyle and environment; falling in love; going on holiday; graduating; getting a new job; etc.

People react to stress in different ways and will respond differently at different times in their lives. As our responses are often instinctive, it is important to recognise when we are feeling stressed, what are our individual symptoms of stress, and what it is that is specifically causing us our stress (known as our individual ‘stressors’). And, as a degree of stress is useful in certain situations, the goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and use it positively.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of stress

Stress can affect your feelings, thoughts, behaviour, and body. Below are some of the symptoms that may be experienced:

Feelings: anxiety, hopelessness, fear, moodiness and irritability
Behaviours: grinding your teeth, increased smoking/ drinking, changes in eating patterns, being accident prone
Body: headaches, increased heartbeat, perspiration/ sweaty palms, sleeping problems
Thoughts: racing thoughts, poor concentration, forgetfulness, low self-esteem

It may seem obvious, but situations which are often experienced as stressful include those during which you are or think you are, being judged, such as, examinations, interviews, meetings, presentations, and social
interactions, etc.

Tips for reducing stress

There are various things you can do to reduce, or even eliminate, stresses in your life. Here are a few suggestions that you may find helpful.

• Try to learn more about the symptoms of your own stress.
• Work out what your ‘stressors’ are – what are the specific things which cause you to feel stressed, as these can vary from person to person.
• Learn to manage your time better – and make sure to take some time out each day to devote to yourself.
• Challenge your negative thinking – be aware when you use words such as ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘ought’. Try to replace them with more moderate terms such as ‘might’, ‘could’ and ‘may’.
• Express yourself! Try to be more open about your feelings rather than bottling things up.
• Set realistic goals – remember to do your best, rather than trying to be perfect.
• Avoid alcohol, drugs and excessive amounts of caffeine – all can make your stress and problems worse in the longer term.
• Talk problems over with trustworthy friends or family members.
• Try eating more healthily and maintaining a regular sleeping pattern – a healthy routine helps your body in better dealing with stress.
• Take up something you enjoy. Try some physical exercise or a new hobby.
• Learn to relax properly, and learn some breathing techniques (try our Relaxation exercise or try some mindfulness exercises.
• Try not to think of ‘complete relief’ as the only solution.

Remember, with time and practice, you can master the skill of looking after yourself, and manage stressful situations more effectively.

What to do in a stressful situation

One of the simplest and most effective ways of reducing the symptoms of stress quickly is to alter your breathing.

You can benefit from changing your breathing pattern from one of rapid, shallow breathing to one of slower, deeper breaths.

• Breathe in through your nose deeply – hold for 3 seconds.
• Imagine you are breathing in positive energy.
• Breath out slowly through your mouth.
• Focus on the ‘out’ breath.
• Make the ‘out’ breath longer than the ‘in’ breath.
• As you breathe out, let all the tensions and worries flow out of your body.
• In your head, repeat a word that brings calm and peace as you breathe in. You will feel noticeably calmer after several minutes of deep, relaxed breathing.

If you need something to keep with you why not download and save The "STOP!" Technique

You might like to attend one of our workshops on this and related subjects. Visit our website for details.

You might like to read

Palmer, S. & A. Puri, A. (2006) Coping with Stress at University: A Survival Guide. London: Sage

Davis, M. Eshelman E. R & McKay M. (2008) The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook (6th edition). California: New Harbinger

Other people you might want to contact: 

  • Your doctor
  • NHS 111, calls are free from landlines and mobiles, tel: 111
  • The Samaritans for 24-hour confidential support – tel: 01902 426 422 or 116 123 or visit:

Other useful websites

MIND: the mental health charity

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

NHS (Northumberland, Tyne & Wear) Follow the links to a range of self-help guides


Mindfulness (Word doc 879k)

What is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)

Mindfulness is about being aware

It is not a religion but a way of being which once
embraced helps you in the way that you live. It is
practised by people of different faith traditions and none.
Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation that has its roots in the ancient Buddhist practise of Vipassana or Insight Meditation.

Mindfulness can make the everyday more pleasurable and the difficult easier. You can start to ‘wonder’ at life, appreciate the little things and take less for granted.

How can mindfulness help?

Mindfulness can help you feel calmer; less stressed; more empathic; less critical (of yourself and others) and generally help you to participate in your life more.

In addition you can:

• become more vibrant, more fulfilled and get more out of life.
• find yourself worrying less and more able to cope with the challenges ‘life’ throws at you.
• It is also about having the option to respond more skilfully to negative emotions so you don’t become exhausted and depressed.
• for some it is about living rather than simply existing, about being really involved in what is going on at the time.

Who is mindfulness for?

• Everyone who wants to enhance their wellbeing!
• It is for people whose creativity seems to have disappeared.
• Those who are feeling frazzled.
• Those who have lost the enjoyment in life that is normally there.
• hose who normally work hard and are conscientious, who seem to be working harder and harder, and finding less time for friends and family.

So, if you are struggling with some of those feelings which can spiral downwards, struggling with not being able to concentrate properly or feeling that life has lost its zest, why not try
practising some mindfulness exercises?

Examples of simple mindfulness exercises, varying in length from 3 to 30 minutes, can be found by visiting http://

“Remember the advice of ‘take a deep breath’? It remains one of the most instant mood changers and calming exercises. It’s free, it’s instantly available and it gets oxygen to your brain.” Rowan T (2013)

So how does it work?

Mindfulness meditation typically consists of becoming fully aware of the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Focusing on the breath in this way provides an ‘anchor’ to return to whenever the mind wanders. It involves becoming aware of thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses to act. Understanding the transient nature of such thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses leads to the recognition that we have a choice as to whether to act on them or not.

Mindfulness is not an alternative to dealing with your problems, nor is it going to remove those painful, difficult and sad times in your life. But it can help you gain some more control over your life and help you cope with difficult feelings and situations.

Why attend a course?

Instead of chasing your tail, getting busier and busier, spending more and more time getting nowhere fast, and falling out with friends or colleagues, try mindfulness meditation and see whether it can make a difference for you. Research, cited in Williams and Penman’s book: Mindfulness a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. (2011) suggests it does.

As can often be the case when learning anything new, it is easier to be guided and do it with others, as you would say for learning a sport, musical instrument or other skill.

There are mindfulness courses around. Speak to your local surgery to see if they know of any local course or check on the website. The University Counselling Service values the benefits
of mindfulness and runs courses throughout the year for staff, and separately for students.


Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Rowan T. (Ed). the little book of Mind-ful-ness. London: Quadrille Publishing, 2013.

Williams M. and Penman D. Mindfulness a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. London: Piatkus, 2011.


Self-harm (Word doc 896k)

What is self-harm?

Self-harm, also known as self-injury, can take a variety of forms including cutting, bruising, burning, pulling out hair, biting and scratching. There are also other forms of self-harm such as alcohol, nicotine or drug mis-use, living dangerously, getting into fights etc..

It is not in itself a symptom of mental illness, nor is it an attempt at suicide. It is sometimes regarded as ‘attention-seeking’ but this is mistaken; self-harming behaviour often occurs in private and is kept hidden. Those who self-harm have genuine problems and require support rather than blame, including when ready, a look at what is behind those external symptoms.

Although current information suggests that the majority of those who self-harm are women, there are significant numbers of men who self-harm. This issue is not confined to one gender or a particular social or cultural group.

Why do people self-harm?

Self-harm is both a sign of distress and a means of coping with it. Those who self-harm often find that it serves one or more of a number of purposes:

• to distract attention from other issues which feel overwhelming
• to help release strong feelings such as anger, frustration, despair, powerlessness or feeling out of control
• to make psychological suffering more visible and therefore more ‘real’
• to gain a sense of control over feelings or at least part of a difficult situation.

If you self-harm

You may have conflicting feelings about your self-harming behaviour. You may feel it helps you to cope but at times you may experience guilt, shame or embarrassment about it. Perhaps you are afraid that others will judge you because of it.

You may wonder why you self-harm. Sometimes the reasons are not obvious at all. The feelings that self-harm expresses may be connected with current events in your life, unresolved issues from your past, or a mixture of both.

It can be difficult to work out what is leading to the self-harm because you may fear facing such issues; if they feel overwhelming it may seem easier to try to avoid them. Perhaps you have tried to handle them or to reach out to others for help and it has not worked out as you had hoped.

Maybe you think you would like to stop yourself from self-harming but are not sure how to do this. Talking things through with a counsellor, or someone else you trust, can help you
understand why you self-harm. Once you realise the need it is fulfilling in your life, it is possible to consider finding other, more satisfactory ways of having this need met.

Professional counselling can help you identify your needs, find ways of meeting them, and support you whilst you make changes at your own pace.

Other ways to express your feelings

If you do not feel ready to confide, or if you want to reduce your self-harm on your own, you may want to try some alternative ways of expressing your feelings. These may include;

• keeping a journal (note when you feel tempted to self-harm and what is currently going on in your life; you may notice a pattern emerging)
• painting or something similar
• using marker pens rather than cutting, etc.
• punching cushions
• delaying self-harming for a while
• consider practising some mindfulness exercises.

Taking care

If you self-harm, it may be wise to have your own first aid kit and to learn the basics of first aid so that you can take care of any injuries. If you cut, implements need to be kept sterile.
If you bleed heavily or think you may have an infected wound, seek help immediately

If you know someone who self-harms

You may feel a whole range of emotions: panic, fear, bewilderment, anger, a wish to help. Try to be patient and remember that self-harm is not a means of attention seeking but a sign that someone has some difficulties.

If you are able to support someone who self-harms, you need to realise that it may take them some time to change. Even if you find their behaviour hard to understand, it is important to
remember that simply caring about the other person can be very helpful.

Also, it is important to remember your own needs too, and to say something if the demands made upon you are too great.

If you are distressed by the self-harming behaviour of someone close to you, you may want to talk things through with a counsellor. This can help you to manage your feelings, get some support for yourself, and be realistic about the support you can offer.

You might like to look at

Recover your life website –

Self Injury/Self Harm Support Group (SISH Bristol)

People you might want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS 111 - tel: 111
• Samaritans – tel: 0845 909090 or tel: 116 123 or visit:
• Campaign Against Living Miserably helpline for men – tel: 0800 585858 or visit:

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists
Advice from Mind:
Useful leaflets:
Health A-Z at:
Free meditation exercises:

Staying positive keeping well

Staying positive, keeping well (Word doc 893k)

It’s healthy and usual to feel a wide range of emotions: happiness, joy, sadness, anger and anxiety, to name but a few. These feelings only become a problem when they stop us doing what we want to, prevent us from achieving our aims and generally interfere in our lives.

Our state of mind can be affected by all sorts of things including lifestyle, relationships, past experiences, biological and genetic factors. There are ways, however, we can look after ourselves and have a greater influence over our moods. So this leaflet is all about promoting
positive mental health.

On a daily basis

  • Pay attention to your physical needs. Find a way to get some exercise and eat properly.
  • Get outside – blue skies can lead to blue-sky thinking, but any fresh air is a good idea!
  • Interact or have contact with someone else. Even a brief chat can lift your spirits. Make time for friends and family.
  • Learn or try something new. Open yourself up to new experiences.
  • As structure can help, try to get into some sort of routine. This includes regular bed times.

Through planning, try to get some balance between work and play.

  • Include treats (these don’t have to be chocolate or sweets. They could be some leisure activity, a soak in the bath, or going for a walk etc.).
  • Avoid too much of anything, especially alcohol or drugs. Alcohol is a depressant. Even a small amount of alcohol before bed stops us getting enough deep sleep.
  • Plan something to look forward to.
  • Try to keep your sense of humour. Allow yourself to see the funny side in misunderstandings and embarrassments. Laughter heals!
  • Consider keeping a diary. Writing can be helpful when coping with new experiences.
  • Challenge negative thinking and try to think positively; consider how much your lifestyle affects your moods.
  • Learn to say ‘No’ when you mean ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ when you mean ’Yes’.
  • Practise some mindfulness exercises.
  • Increase how much you value yourself (your self-esteem). A high self-esteem helps us get through our difficulties. A low sense of self-esteem can mean we feel helpless,powerless, angry and even depressed.
  • If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek help. Don't wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!

Tackling stressful situations

It can be useful to remember the following:

  • Acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and reactions, and work out what might be helpful in the situation.
  • Translate worries into concerns and then into a plan of action. Taking control can make you feel better.
  • Remember how you have coped with difficult situations in the past.
  • When you are not feeling so stressed, think of ways yo might take care of yourself when you do feel at a loss. How do you generally deal with stress? What could you do (instead of say, eating, drinking or even using drugs) to help yourself feel better?

You might like to read

Rosenthal, H. and Hollis, J.W. (1994) Help Yourself To Positive
Mental Health. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis Group

Useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Advice from Mind:

Useful leaflets:

Health A-Z at:

Free meditation exercises:

Thinking about eating problems

Thinking about eating problems (Word doc 895k)

From time to time, people may experience changes in their eating patterns. This may occur for a number of reasons such as periods of stress, an illness or taking medication which may affect your appetite. For most people their eating will return to normal after a short period of time. However, for some people, including both women and men, eating disorders are coping mechanisms used to deal with deeper rooted problems over a longer period of time.

Problems with food can range from not eating, to overeating or binge eating – as ways of coping with anxiety, stress, boredom, control issues, loneliness, guilt, an emotional void, low self esteem, etc.. Eating difficulties, therefore, can sometimes be the actual manifestation of some very difficult to express and/or traumatic experiences, and must be taken very seriously.

Initially, eating disorders are the symptom of a problem. If the unhealthy eating behaviour continues, this can become a problem in itself and may take some time to resolve. There are a number of ways that different people experience eating problems and these usually fall into the following categories:


Individuals experiencing anorexia will see themselves as being larger than they actually are. Many of their thoughts are about weight control and the person usually has an intense fear of weight gain and will often exercise more than they need to in order to burn calories. They may use laxatives and vomiting to help control their weight and they may weigh less than is considered to be healthy by the medical profession.


People experiencing bulimia tend to alternate between severe weight control and binge eating (over eating when not hungry). Fasting (not eating for extended periods of time) and purging (making yourself vomit) can be part of this process. The use of laxatives and diuretics are also common factors.

Binge eating

People who binge eat do not tend to purge, fast or overexercise. Rather, they will eat alone and eat to excess, even if they do not feel hungry, and sometimes, until they are uncomfortably full.

Compulsive eating

This problem is similar to bulimia. Individuals can maintain a normal body weight which is achieved by having ‘binge-free’ periods in order to keep weight down. Individuals who eat compulsively may also snack throughout the day.

If you are experiencing eating problems

You may be experiencing mixed feelings about your eating problem. These feelings may include embarrassment, shame, guilt, anxiety or fear that you will lose control over your life if you
seek help.

If you have concerns about your eating habits then it is important that you seek support, such as counselling through the University Counselling Service, where you will have the opportunity to discuss your concerns in a supportive and understanding environment. It is important to seek medical advice from your Doctor. Maybe ask someone you trust to support you in doing this.

You may find it useful to keep a diary of your eating habits as this will help in your treatment and provide you with an opportunity to notice patterns in your eating habits. Remember, that an eating disorder, if left untreated, could result in a number of serious health issues.

If you know someone who may be experiencing problems with eating

If you are worried about someone you know, talk to them about your concerns tactfully. Done in a caring and honest way, your relationship is unlikely to be affected. You may be willing to help them access appropriate support, either through the University Mental Health and Wellbeing Service or their own Doctor. Alternatively, you could direct them to one of the useful contacts listed below. Remember, try not to take on too much. Looking after yourself is important too.

You might like to read

Freeman, C. (2009) Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa. London: Constable and Robinson Ltd.

Cooper, P. (2009) Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa and Binge-Eating. London: Constable and Robinson Ltd.

People you may want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS 111 – tel: 111
• Beat, information and help on all aspects of eating disorders tel: 0845 634 1414
• British Dietetic Association – tel: 0121 200 8080 or visit:
• The Samaritans: 24 hour emotional support – tel: 01902 426422 or tel: 116 123 or visit:

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Advice from Mind:

Useful leaflets:

Health A-Z at:

Free meditation exercises: mindfulness/


Trauma (Word doc 896k)

What is trauma?

Trauma is a process in the mind and body. It occurs in response to experiencing or witnessing an event that is life threatening or has serious consequences, eg. disasters, major accidents, violent and sexual assault or illness.

The nature of the incident and how it is experienced, overwhelms a person’s usual ability to deal with what has happened.

How the individual experiences it determines whether an event is traumatic or not, eg. events of a less dramatic nature can also be traumatising; one experience of abuse can be as traumatic as multiple experiences.

What is traumatic for a child is different from what is traumatic for an adult, eg. a baby or child who has not had their basic needs for warmth, care and nurturance met may have experienced this as life threatening and have the characteristics of trauma.

Feelings of previous trauma and loss can be evoked by a new traumatic event.

Traumatic stress

Traumatic stress is the stress associated with a traumatic incident; it is simply the body mobilising resources to deal with what is confronting it.

Biological responses to stress are both instant and instinctive. The brain releases hormones that mobilise the body’s ‘flight or fight’ responses which are geared to survival. In situations where neither flight nor fight is an option, eg. in the case of a child being sexually abused, the body may activate the ‘freeze’ response whereby the person becomes immobilised by the overwhelming nature of the event.

Post-traumatic stress

Post-traumatic stress is the stress which carries on after a traumatic incident. Most people will experience some symptoms following a traumatic event, which will usually diminish over time as a person gradually comes to terms with what has happened. The time taken will vary from person to person.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Sometimes the symptoms of post traumatic stress, although normal in themselves, persist to the extent that they cause significant problems in daily living. Posttraumatic stress disorder can be successfully treated by various psychological therapies.

Common reactions

Immediately after a trauma people will often experience shock and denial - feeling stunned, dazed or numb and unable to accept what has happened. These feelings gradually fade, over hours or days, and are replaced by other thoughts and feelings.

A person may have frequent thoughts or images of the event and might have nightmares.

A wide range of feelings may be experienced: anger (due to not feeling in control); fear; helplessness; grief and sadness (in response to various losses eg. people, safety and security,
health, material things); guilt (for surviving when others didn’t); shame or embarrassment; relief; and hope.

There might be physical reactions such as: changes to a person’s sleeping patterns, concentration levels, appetite or sex-drive; tiredness; general anxiety - being easily startled by noises, heart beating faster and breathing difficulties; general agitation; muscle tension; aches and pains and headaches.

What can I do to help myself?

You may need to grieve for who, or what, has been lost. This is a process that takes time and can be helped by rituals, such as funerals or memorial services.

Re-establish familiar, every day activities and routines. Spend time with close friends and family and do some ‘normal’ things with people.

Ask for, and accept, the support of others.

Take care of yourself. People are more prone to accidents after experiencing a traumatic event.

Treat yourself extra kindly; you may need some time by yourself for example. Allow yourself time to sleep and rest; eat healthily; and take some regular exercise, such as walking, jogging or swimming, which is good for reducing the physical effects of post traumatic stress.

Finding a way to express feelings and thoughts - by talking, writing or through art - can help to   make them more manageable.

Some people are helped by spending time in a support group, with other survivors, who have been through similar experiences.

Resist the temptation to misuse alcohol or drugs. Although this may provide some immediate relief of symptoms, it can create further problems for you to deal with.

You might like to read

Herbert, C. (2002) Understanding Your Reactions to Trauma. Witney: Blue Stallion Publications.

Herbert, C. and Wetmore, A. (2008) Overcoming Traumatic Stress: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques. London: Constable and Robinson Ltd.

People you might want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS 111 – tel: 111
• The Samaritans – tel: 116 123
• Victim Support – tel: 0300 303 1977 or visit:
• Rape Crisis England and Wales – visit:
• Women’s Aid: 24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline – tel: 0808 2000 247 or visit:
• Refuge provides aid and refuge to women and children – tel: 0808 2000 247 or visit:
• Survivors UK provides help for men who have been sexually abused or raped – visit: or tel the UK National Helpline: 0845 122 1201

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Advice from Mind:

Useful leaflets:

Health A-Z at:

Free meditation exercises: mindfulness/

What stops men seeking help

What stops men seeking help (Word doc 896k)

Common misconceptions on being a man

“Men aren’t supposed to have problems – it’s a sign of weakness.”
“Men are meant to deal with problems themselves.”
“Men should appear strong, intelligent and capable.”
“Men should take care of others.”
“Men aren’t supposed to be scared or embarrassed.”

Common feelings of embarrassment

“I couldn’t talk to my doctor – it’s too personal.”
“I wouldn’t be taken seriously, I’d probably be laughed at.”
“I feel so stupid – others don’t feel this way – they don’t have the same problems.”
“If my mates knew, I’d be ridiculed.”

What gets in the way?

The biggest obstacle for a man seeking help is most probably his fear of what others might think.
Consequently, when a man really does need help he leaves it until the very last minute, by which time he has put up with the problem for much longer than needed. Keeping things to ourselves may make things worse in the long-term.

Typically, men make light of their problems in conversations with friends or partners. Their reluctance to seek help is shown in a survey showing men’s attitudes about accessing medical help. For example, embarrassment is preventing 31% of men from seeing their doctor*.
*Institute of Cancer Research, 2001

Things you can do

• Talk to someone you trust about the problem – taking small, manageable steps like this may well relieve you. Often other male friends have similar thoughts.
• Describe in writing what the problem is, how it feels, what your thoughts are about it – this can help you make sense of things and think clearly about what the problem is.
• See your doctor – if you feel uncomfortable with your own doctor, ask to see another.
• Consider talking to a counsellor.


Men who seek help from the University Counselling Service bring a variety of concerns, including:

• lack of motivation and difficulties in concentrating on work or academic studies
• relationship breakdown
• depression and anxiety
• sexual concerns
• sexual identity
• eating disorders, often related to body image
• a new role in the family
• fear of failure
• drug use and alcohol consumption
• stress and pressure
• anger management


During counselling sessions, you can talk to someone confidentially who is ‘neutral’ and independent. Perceptions about counselling vary from person to person. Here are some common misconceptions:

• it’s not really confidential
• it’s only for people with serious mental problems
• talking about how I feel is a sign of weakness
• it’s shameful to talk about myself outside my family.

In reality, talking to someone in a non-judgemental capacity can actually bring a variety of beneficial outcomes:

• relief: getting things off your chest
• space to think straight
• sharing thoughts and feelings, and thereby easing the burden
• fresh perspectives
• greater ease in talking to someone you don’t know
• development of strategies for dealing with problems and feelings
• feeling more confident in yourself and your decisions
• feeling that things are more manageable.

Men who have accessed help will often say that they wished they had got support earlier. They say that asking for help wasn’t such a big deal after all.

People you may want to contact

• Your doctor
• NHS 111 – tel: 111
• Beating Eating Disorders helpline on tel: 0845 634 1414 or visit:
• The Samaritans – tel: 116 123
• Survivors UK – help for men who have been sexually abused or raped: 0845 122 1201

Other useful websites

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

MIND mental health organisation

Family doctor - online health resource with some specific information for men

Free meditation exercises:

Working in groups

Working groups (Word doc 883k)