Mental health support
With one in four of us experiencing a mental health difficulty at some point in our lives, we’re all much more aware of the need to maintain good mental health. That's why it's important for you to know we're here to listen to any concerns you may have about your study and we'll help and support you in the best way we can.
It's common for students to experience difficulties during their study journey but for some, studying can increase vulnerability to unhealthy levels of stress, anxiety and other mental health difficulties.
Whether you have a diagnosed mental health difficulty or not, taking care of your mental health is really important to help you study effectively. The Open University (OU) is committed to supporting you to achieve this.
How to get support while studying
This short animation explains how we can support you if your mental health difficulties are impacting any aspect of your study.
Looking after your mental health126
Good mental health is a key ingredient for successful study.
It is common to feel stressed or experience difficulties during your study journey.
If you feel that you’re struggling, you can contact us and we will do our best to support you.
Remember, you’re not alone; we currently support over 10,000 students who have told us that they have a mental health difficulty.
These difficulties come in many varied forms and can affect you and your studies in lots of different ways.
There’s two main ways in which we can support you.
Firstly, we will listen to how your studies are being affected and offer solutions to try and give you the support you need.
This comes in may forms such as a chat with your tutor about what areas you should focus on, assignment extensions, rest breaks during exams, mental health mentoring support through Disabled Students’ Allowances, support from other students through online forums, or maybe even taking a break from study.
Secondly, we can direct you to specialised organisations that support people with mental health difficulties.
For example, we partner with Togetherall and Nightline who are both experts in supporting students in this area.
Whatever way you choose to contact us our advisors are standing by to talk things through with you about what might help with your studies and suggest information you can read on how to de-stress or improve your work life balance.
So you’ll successfully go on to achieve the next step on your learning journey at the Open University.
What we can do to help
If you feel as though you're struggling to cope with your studies, please talk to us, we’re here to help. Either contact your Student Support Team (SST) or tutor as they'll be able to offer alternative options and solutions for any study related issues you may be having.
This could include:
- discussing areas of focus with your tutor
- extra time to complete assignments
- creating a more manageable study timetable with your tutor
- additional support in tutorials, day school or residential school
- revision support
- taking rest breaks during exams
- taking a break from study
Open University Students Association - Peer Support
Distance learning can be challenging for some students and we all need support in different ways. Some of these challenges might include:
- feeling isolated
- struggling with motivation
- lacking confidence with approaching studies
The OU Students Association confidential Peer Support Service can help you. Peer Supporters are trained OU students who provide a listening ear if you’re struggling with your learning and can offer you study skills support.
Have a look at Peer Support for more information about the service including how to get in touch with a Peer Supporter.Back to top
Telling us about your mental health difficulty
We support over 10,000 students that have told us they have a mental health difficulty. You can tell us 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.
You may not consider mental health to be a disability. However, mental health issues are covered under the Equality Act 2010 and you could be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs). These allowances could finance mental health mentoring support during your studies.
Declare a disability67
Hello, I’m Neill Boddington, one of the OU’s Mental Health Advisers and I’m going to briefly explain the support that’s available to you for your mental health and wellbeing.
Firstly, if you do have a mental health condition or experience some challenges to your mental health, then I encourage you to complete a Disability Support form that will create your disability profile.
Here at the OU mental health is classed as a disability to ensure all students are offered the support that they need.
You complete an online form which prompts a discussion with our Disability Support Team who will ensure your profile reflects all the considerations needed for your studies and any other reasonable adjustments.
You can provide as much or as little info as you’re happy to.
This profile is then made available to your tutor and other staff that are engaged in your learning so they can support you accordingly.
Find out more about this in StudentHome and the Help Centre, just look for links mentioning disability support.
Our mental health support partners
If your mental health difficulties are not study related we can recommend more specialised services that could help you.
Togetherall (formerly Big White Wall)
If you’re struggling to sleep, feeling low, stressed or not coping, you can access free mental health and wellbeing support through our current partnership with Togetherall. It’s a safe and completely anonymous online space that's available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To join Togetherall’s supportive online community, you’ll need to follow these steps to register:
- Go to Togetherall.
- Select ‘Join Us’.
- Under ‘Organisation’ select ‘Universities and Colleges’ then ‘Next’.
- Enter your OU email address (provided with Microsoft 365).
- Enter your details and click ‘Sign up’.
- You'll be sent an email to verify your email address. Click on the link to activate your account.
You can then choose an anonymous username for your time on the site. If you don't know what your OU email address is see Your OU email address.
As Togetherall is a self-help resource it may not be suitable for everyone. Its advisors are there to help you with wellbeing but can’t answer specific questions about the OU or your studies with us. If you have specific questions about your studies please contact your SST.
Nightline is a listening service run by trained students offering emotional support and practical information to students through the night. Their operating hours are mainly in line with term times at campus universities. You can contact them by phone, live chat, email, text or Skype. For details of the OU service see nightline.Back to top
Do you need urgent help?
If you need more immediate help, you can contact:
- Samaritans - Tel: 116 123 who are available any time and any day
- Mind - Tel: 0300 123 3393
- SANEline - Tel: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm-10.30pm)
- your local GP for medical advice by making an emergency appointment
- NHS (England & Wales) Tel: 111, NHS 24 (Scotland) Tel: 08454 242424, NI Direct (Northern Ireland) Tel: 0808 808 8000
- 999 or go to Accident and Emergency (A&E) for immediate help.