After a month of home-cooked meals, no early lectures and not putting together your last pennies for instant own-brand instant noodles from your local supermarket, coming back to University with a severe case of January Blues as well as your first exams and deadlines of the academic year can make some of us reach rock bottom.

Whilst most students find being away from home, exam time and surviving on a minimal budget difficult, some find it a lot harder to cope with than others – particularly in the long winter months after the comfort of home for Christmas.

Without parents around to take care of us, often the peers we live with become the closest thing with have to a family at University – and between the nights out and the badly cooked (and sometimes dangerous) group Sunday dinners we often find ourselves looking out for our house and classmates more than we would our friends at home.

But when someone is feeling down during the exam period, how do you notice the difference between typical exam stress and something a lot more serious?

Falling Asleep in Lectures

You’d be hard pushed to find a student anywhere who hasn’t struggled to stay awake through a four-hour lecture after cramming in an all-nighter before a deadline, or having a few too many on a night out with a 9am lecture to attend – however, not every student is struggling to stay awake in class because they the student union a little hard in the first week of the semester.

For many people, struggling to stay awake in the day time often means they’re not sleeping at night – and if the reason isn’t too many nights out or pulling all-nighters studying – it could be a clear sign that someone is struggling with their mental health. Lack of sleep, inability to sleep or insomnia are all clear symptoms of depression and anxiety and (whilst they might just be signs of common exam stress or too many nights out) if you a spot a friend or fellow student looking more exhausted than usual, pull them to one side and ask if they’re ok.

Stops Going Out

University – particularly the first year – is often an eight-month-long party with a slight dip over Christmas where most students head home. As January rolls around it is normal for us to all feel like we have overdone it over the Christmas period, to try and drink less as part of our new years’ resolution or to save the parties for the end of the month when the exam period is over. However, if one of your fellow students just suddenly stops attending social events – whether it be nights out, meals with friends or even just hanging out in the common area of your student digs, it could mean they’re suffering with their mental health – rather than just focusing on their studies.

Change of Routine

Even the laziest of students at university have some sort of routine – even if that only goes as far to always ordering pizza on Two-for-Tuesdays and never missing Student-Sundays at your local club. Making changes to our routine in the new year is completely normal – especially when it is active towards improving ourselves, for example joining the gym or reducing Two-for-Tuesdays for just one Tuesday per month.

Poor mental health can affect our sleep patterns, our appetite and our desire to do the things we enjoy – if you spot a friend skipping meals, not sleeping at night (or sleeping all day) or notice they no longer enjoy the things they usually love, it could be a sign that the stresses of the exam season are becoming too much.


If you’re worried about a fellow student at University, pull them to one side and let them know you’re there for them. If afterwards you still feel like your friend is struggling, or that despite the offer they’re not willing to open up to you – speak to your student services department about your concerns to work out the best next steps to take.


If you think you’re suffering with your mental health, therapy – or a combination of therapy and medication – is a great way to start your recovery process, and is the most effective way to treat a number of different mental health issues. Online Therapy is one of the easiest ways to tie sessions into an already busy schedule and is one of the most discreet ways to get involved with sessions taking place from wherever works for you.

Online therapy is often a lot cheaper than trying therapy from traditional clinics but doesn’t have the long wait times or catchment areas of mental health care on the NHS. In fact, signing up for online therapy is as simple as downloading an app, completing a short survey and being matched to the type of therapy and the therapist best suited to help you and your issues. Learn more about our services and how we can help you with your mental health through our website, or download the app from your app store to get started with just a few clicks.