Mental health

Supporting people with mental health difficulties

Guidance for staff on how to support and signpost students experiencing mental health difficulties.

There is often no clear sign that a person is experiencing difficulties, and in some instances, it may not be apparent to the learner. Symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways, including anxiety, panic, disorientation, and increased elation or sadness. Some of these may be due to the side effects of medication, while; other symptoms may be severe enough to affect course attendance. 

  • One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. 
  • About ten per cent of children have a mental health problem at any one time. 
  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain. 

Potential issues

Mental health problems will often divert students’ attention away from their work. Emotional or personal problems will also very frequently lead to a lack of concentration on work. These issues may be short term, and appropriate and timely personal advice or counselling may be appropriate. 

For more information on counselling, please visit our counselling page.

Key adjustments

The vast majority of adjustments that can be made do not need to be tailored to specific individuals’ needs and, if implemented, can benefit all students whether they carry a ‘statement of need’ or not. Other than where permission must be sought from awarding bodies (such as an application for extra time), adjustments for students who have difficulty concentrating are simply good practice. 

Using the full sensory range via multimedia (sounds, podcasts, recordings, videos and interactive opportunities) to deliver information helps students to understand and will enhance the chance of success for all students. The most important principle is to ensure as much clarity as possible. In practice this means giving students the option of removing any unnecessary ‘clutter’ from the screen such as: 

These are very simple to achieve in HTML and now built in to many e-assessments provided by awarding bodies. Software providers that do not build in user-control capabilities should be strongly encouraged to do so by those involved in the assessment process. 

Concentration is very often compromised in people with mental health diagnoses. By breaking things into more manageable pieces this can avoid much of the anxiety related to academic study. 


All the information you need to contact Student Support and Wellbeing

Further guidance

The MIND web pages contain lots of useful further information.

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