Mental wellbeing - Understanding disabilities, impairments and specific learning difficulties - University of Derby

Mental wellbeing

There are a range of mental health conditions that students may experience. Below is a list of the most common diagnoses:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Psychosis
  • Bi-Polar Disorder

All of these conditions may significantly impact upon the student’s ability to learn.

Some students will disclose their mental health diagnosis prior to University and access support from the onset of University life; some students may not have a pre-existing diagnosis but their mental health may deteriorate once at University; others choose not to disclose this information at all. 

Mental health conditions are largely a hidden disability and it may be difficult to identify that a student has a mental health issue.  Students’ mental health condition may be presented in several different ways:

  • Depression can result in reduced motivation and self-confidence, an inability to concentrate and medication can impair cognitive functioning.
  • Anxious students often experience sleep disturbance, poor concentration and confusion. Some may experience panic attacks which can be very distressing.
  • A Student with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may have recurring thoughts or images that are invasive and they may feel compelled to perform actions or mental activities to prevent the obsession from becoming reality.
  • Eating Disorders can result in lack of concentration; becoming depressed; feeling weak and lethargic. Not all students will present with weight loss as some disorders such as bulimia may maintain weight whilst binge eating may result in weight gain.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops when a person experiences a traumatic event, immediately after the event or much later, and may lead to sleep disturbance, unwanted intrusive thoughts and images, difficulty in regulating emotions and an increase in risk taking behaviour. This may impact on a student’s ability to attend university, maintain focus on their programme of study, structure their time and concentrate on academic work.
  • Social Phobia, which is an extreme fear of being embarrassed in public situations, and Agoraphobia, which is a fear of being in situations where exit is difficult, can have a direct impact on the Student’s ability to participate in University life.
  • Psychosis is an enduring condition causing a distortion of reality involving hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders. During a ‘psychotic’ episode thoughts are disturbed making cognition difficult.
  • Bi-Polar Disorder was formerly known as Manic Depression although this term is no longer used. Students experience extreme mood swings from elation to depression. Psychotic symptoms may also be present.

If a Student has a support plan in place, this will identify any adjustments required to meet their individual needs. The following provides examples of the types of adjustments that may be put in place:

  • Designated seating near a door
  • A separate room to complete their exam
  • Alternative assessment methods where appropriate
  • Additional time to complete assignments. (AED)
  • To be able to leave a lecture and return when able to do so
  • There may be times when the student will need a deferral for an exam because they are not well enough to sit the exam.
  • Support worker for exams

It is good practice to discuss with the Student how the recommendations in the Support Plan can be implemented.

Field Trips

The support plan will identify if a discussion needs to take place with the student about the proposed trip and also what adjustments may be required.  Field trips/residentials/placements require a risk assessment for all students so ensure that individual need is addressed within this.

Student Wellbeing Service

The Student Wellbeing Service works in partnership with Students and Academic Staff to provide and facilitate:

  • Assessment of support needs and support plan
  • Counselling
  • Crisis support
  • Workshops and individual interventions focused on exam anxiety
  • Workshops and individual interventions focused on presentation anxiety
  • Individual interventions for students who have experienced a trauma
  • Mental Health Support workers
  • Workshops for Module leaders to use for staff and students
  • Advice regarding financial support

In addition the library is equipped with a range of self-help resources found in the Bibliotherapy section.

Where can I find out more?

What's Happening ...

Academic Book Week

23 - 28 January

Academic Book Week (#AcBookWeek) is a week-long celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books throughout history.

For more information please view our dedicated webpage.