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Mental health difficulties

It's estimated that one in four people experience some form of mental health difficulty each year. For some the difficulty is relatively mild and transient and for others it's more severe and enduring. These difficulties include anxiety and depression, phobias, eating disorders, self-harm, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

Things to consider

It may not be easy to predict how your studies will be affected if your mental health fluctuates. Have a think about these points:

  • How to organise your study realistically.
  • How to maintain your motivation if you feel isolated, anxious or stressed.
  • Making the most of your network of friends and family to support you when study gets tough.
  • Any individual arrangements you might need for your exams or residential school.

Our booklet Studying and Staying Mentally Healthy (PDF, 985.2 KB) gives a useful overview of the relevant issues.

Getting the right resources for you

Make sure your student profile explains what you as an individual find difficult and the areas where you require support. Have a preliminary discussion with your tutor and request things that might help you.

To check the accessible formats available on a module go to the module website from StudentHome and look under the Resources heading for a link to Downloads. (You could also look up your module in the online prospectus).

You can also take a look at adjustments available by study elements to see what we can offer you.

Disclosing your mental health difficulties

Deciding to disclose mental health difficulties can be a positive and empowering experience and help you to develop coping strategies. After disclosure you may feel less pressure and potential issues can be headed off before they occur. You can disclose at any stage in your studies, but we recommend you do so as early as possible so we can make reasonable adjustments and support you to reach your full potential.

Your student support team

Talk to your tutor at the start of your module so you can tell them how they can help you. If your mental health deteriorates through stress, anxiety or the effects of any medication, your tutor or an adviser from your student support team can help you get back on track. You can find their contact details in Contact the OU.

Working with others

If you have concerns about working in a group with other students, you can:

  • ask to take a friend or family member with you to face-to-face tutorials
  • ask for extra phone, email or one-to-one support from your tutor instead of a group tutorial.

Many modules now have online forums for sharing information, social networking and teaching and learning activities. OU students support each other strongly in online forums, so do take part if you can.

Exam arrangements

Individual arrangements can be made for you where there’s clear evidence that you would otherwise be disadvantaged. Take a look at Exam arrangements for disabled students for more information.

For example, if you find large exam centres daunting, you might prefer an exam at home or in a separate room, or you could ask for a rest break or extra time in the exam.

We do require relevant medical evidence to make these arrangements. Please speak to an adviser in your student support team as early in your module as possible to give us enough time to gain approval for your request and set everything up.

Residential school

If your module has a compulsory residential school, we’ll work with you to make your stay beneficial and effective. Discuss disability support at residential school with an adviser as early in your module as possible to give us enough time to make arrangements.

If you can't go to residential school in person, an online alternative learning experience (ALE) may be available so you can fulfil the module requirements.

Further information

For further information see our article on External sources of information and support.