Mental health support
Many of us experience a mental health difficulty at some point in our lives. 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.
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.
The Mental Health Casework and Advice Team (MHCAT)
MHCAT forms part of Student Support. The team provides a specialist, one-to-one support service for students needing guidance on managing complex mental health difficulties or severe emotional distress alongside their studies. The service is available to all registered students on a referral basis and subject to eligibility criteria.
You don't need to have a mental health diagnosis or to identify as having a mental health condition to receive support from a member of MHCAT.
How it works
If, having explored all other avenues of support, one of our trained advisers in your Student Support Team thinks you would benefit, they'll refer you to MHCAT. This will be discussed with you, and you'll not be referred without your consent.
You'll be assigned an adviser from the MHCAT team who'll be your named contact. You'll have regular appointments with your named adviser who’ll support you on a one-to-one basis to help you move forward with your studies.
What happens if your referral is not accepted
We'll explain to you why you were not referred to the service at this time and signpost you to other services, within or outside the OU, that may be of further help to you. Remember the Togetherall and Shout services are available to all.Back to top
Our mental health support partners
If your mental health difficulties are not study related we can recommend more specialised services that could help you.
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. Follow the steps in our article about Togetherall to register.
As Togetherall is a self-help resource it may not be suitable for everyone. Its advisers 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.
We are proud to partner with Shout 85258 to offer free and confidential support to any OU student who is feeling overwhelmed or is struggling to cope. Shout’s text message support service is anonymous and available 24/7. The service is available to anyone in the UK and it won’t show up on your phone bill. Trained volunteers can help with issues including anxiety, abuse, loneliness, self-harm and suicide, they are there for you 24/7 to listen and support you to get to a calmer and safer place. Find out about our partnership with Shout and how it works.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.
Report and Support online tool
If your mental health has been impacted by an incident that has happened to you or someone else at the OU, you're encouraged to report it using our safe space reporting tool, Report and Support. This online tool allows you to report incidents and behaviours relating to the nine protected characteristics (and/or the extended characteristics set out in the Open University Anti-Discrimination Statement). You can choose to do this anonymously or provide your name. If you do give your name, the incident will be investigated and you will be signposted to additional supportBack to top