Mental illness can be defined as the experiencing of severe and distressing psychological symptoms to the extent that normal functioning is seriously impaired, and some form of help is usually needed for recovery. Examples of such symptoms include anxiety, depressed mood, obsessional thinking, delusions and hallucinations. Help may take the form of counselling or psychotherapy, drug treatment and/or lifestyle change. The more common mental illnesses include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.
If you are experiencing a mental health issue, you need to talk to someone who can help. The first points of contact in the university should be your welfare officer, the counselling service or the health service.
The welfare officer can listen to your problem and can direct you to the service that is best able to help. If you are afraid of going to the service for the first time, the welfare officer can guide you through the process of making an appointment.
The welfare officers contact information, is on the right hand side of this page.
The counselling service is staffed by trained counsellors and psychologists who know how to talk you through any problems you may be having. Remember that talking is a sign of strength and not weakness, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
The student health service has a psychiatrist who can prescribe you medication to help with your mental health issues. Remember, there is no shame in getting help, so if you feel you need to speak with a doctor contact the medical service for more information.
Every first year has been linked with a peer supporter – someone to turn to for guidance when you need help. If you aren’t sure who your peer supporter is, or if you’d like to be a peer supporter yourself, check out: http://www.ucc.ie/en/pass/ulinkpeersupport/
CALM (Computer Aided Lifestyle Management) is an online multimedia programme available to all students and staff at UCC. It uses interactive self-help tools to identify, motivate and educate you around issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress and substance misuse. Once you have identified any issues, CALM can help you to deal with your thoughts and feelings associated with them. CALM is available to all students and staff in UCC. CALM can be accessed from the Student Counselling & Development website (visit here) and clicking ‘Online Support’ on the left hand tool bar.
Smartphone apps and the net
If you have a smartphone then you can get apps that can promote positive wellbeing. Search for apps on mindfulness to deal with anxiety or stress. Alternatively you can find exercises online and tools such as that which can be found at www.thequietroom.com
Social network usage
Are you concerned about the amount of time you find yourself on social networking sites (SNSs). Excessive use of SNSs can have many negative mental health outcomes. One study showed that those who looked through their “wall” before taking a depression test were found to be more depressed than those who did not. SNSs can be great for social interaction, organising events and getting information about people, but obsessive use can lead to breakdowns in relationships, loss of productivity and procrastination and mental health problems just to name a few issues. If you are concerned about excessive social network use, you can take a test here:
Rate the following on a scale of 1 to 5 for how much you agree, with 1 being that you don’t agree and 5 being that you agree very much.
You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook
You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more
You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems
You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success
You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook
You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies
If you rated 4 of these items as 4 or more then your use of Facebook could be considered excessive according to a study at the University of Bergen. If you feel that your productivity or mood could be improved by cutting back on your social media use trythis.
Being active isn’t just about exercising your body, it’s about exercising your mind and engaging your interests. Social interaction (face to face) has been shown to improve mental wellbeing (social interaction over the internet can help facilitate mental wellbeing amongst those who don’t normally like face to face contact also). There are a variety of ways to get involved in UCC. You can join a club or society, or help us here in the SU. Not only will getting involved make you happier and healthier but it will look great on your CV. For more information on clubs and societies go to
Suicide is a major risk for young men –a lot of these deaths could be prevented if help is sought and an intervention is made. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please do not hesitate to contact any of these resources. Please reach out, please seek out help, please talk:
If you would like to be trained to be more suicide aware, check out the SAFEtalk training offered by this organisation www.livingworks.net. Look out for the SAFEtalks that will be offered in UCC throughout the year!
Are you finding yourself stressed?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. During revision and exam periods, anxiety and stress are very common problems for students – even for those who appear confident and calm. Stress is your body’s natural response to a challenge, threat or excitement . It can be positive and can help prepare you for your exams. The key is to not let it turn in to Distress.
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Your interpretation of the physical symptoms of stress is important. Consider a student before an exam and an athlete before a competition: both experience the sweaty palms, the racing heart and the knot/butterflies in the pit of their stomach. The student feels distressed and views the symptoms as a sign of impending doom, but the athlete will take advantage of the rush to motivate herself to perform well. Stress can be a barrier or a motivating agent – it all depends on how you interpret, label and manage what you are experiencing.
Esteem and Morale
Base expectations on your past performance; using other people’s achievements to set a standard will almost always set your expectations incorrectly; either too high or too low.
Be positive about what you do know, not negative about what you don’t.
Give yourself credit whenever possible. Ticking off completed units creates a sense of forward movement. A checklist for the day’s targets (make sure they are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time related) can also boost morale.
You may feel pressured by someone else but remember that you are the best judge of your own achievements.
Challenge any negative thoughts and replace them with a positive one straight away.
Aim to do your best but recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time.
Keep things in perspective. The exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now, but in the grander scheme of your whole life they are only a small part.
Be flexible – Sometimes situations change and you may need to re-adjust your goals or work plan to fit in with the changes.
Exams have a beginning and an end, and the stress that goes along with them should end with the exam.
A failed exam doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Take some time to relax
Relaxation and Rest
Make a list of things that you like do to relax, and carry these out whenever you need a study break. If you’re becoming too stressed take some time to relax, remember you can’t work to the best of your ability when you’re stressed out. Exercise and relaxation will help to keep you feeling calm and balanced, improve your concentration levels and help you to sleep better.
As well as relaxation, exercise has been shown to help reduce stress levels and alleviate the symptoms of depression. Going for a short walk will help clear your head and help you calm down. It releases dopamine and serotonin, the hormones which can help your mood. You can also try mindfulness exercises or distraction techniques to help you with your stress. These are only a websearch away but you can find some on http://thequietplaceproject.com
Break a large task into manageable parts! Cover the essentials first, add refinements or further details later -if there is time.
If you find that you’re struggling with a particular module, talk to your lecture.
Don’t drink too much coffee, tea and fizzy drinks; the caffeine will ‘hype’ you and make your thinking less clear.
Eat healthily and regularly; your brain will benefit from the nutrients.
Having a balance of activities in your life may help to avoid you burning out.
If you’re tired, worries can get blown out of proportion. Make sure you have time to unwind before bed and aim for about 8 hours a night!!
Exams don’t exist in isolation; there may well be other events going on in your life, which are beyond your control, that are putting you under pressure. It may help to seek practical help, support and advice.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try talking to a friend or family member. Or call to your Students Unions Welfare Officer, Education Officer or the Student Counselling and Development Centre (based in the Health Centre).
Talking is not a sign of weakness. Please talk. If you’re feeling alone or down, frustrated or isolated, don’t hesitate to contact any of the following services.
If you are concerned about your eating or with a friend’s, contact the BodyWhys helpline on LoCall 1890 200 444.
What are eating disorders?
The term ‘eating disorder’ refers to a complex, potentially life-threatening condition, characterised by severe disturbances in eating behaviours. Eating disorders can be seen as a way of coping with emotional distress, or as a symptom of underlying issues.
Eating disorders are not primarily about food, it can also be about control and maintaining one’s sense of self or be a result of distress.
People can and do recover.
Eating disorders can affect anyone
Eating disorders are characterised by a variety of disordered eating behaviours such as:
Self-starvation – by fasting and/or food restriction
Purging – by self-induced vomiting, over-exercising, or laxative abuse
Bingeing – by consuming quantities of food beyond what the body needs to satisfy hunger
An eating disorder can be very destructive, both physically and emotionally, and people can get trapped into the destructive cycle of the eating disorder without knowing how to cope with it. An eating disorder is not just about food and weight, but also about a person’s sense of who they are. Treatment of an eating disorder will require attention to both the physical and the psychological/emotional aspects of the person. Treatment must always include respect for and sensitivity for the overall well-being of the person. The distress of a person experiencing an eating disorder, whether or not it is acknowledged, may have a considerable impact on family and friends.
Depression is a condition that can take many forms, from the short lived feelings of sadness that most of us suffer in response to disappointments of everyday life, right up to severe depressive disorders which require treatment. At any one time more than 400,000 people in Ireland experience depression, and it is estimated that at least 20% of people will experience it at some time in their lives.
A depressive illness is an overwhelming feeling which dulls thinking, impairs concentration, saps energy, interest in food, sex, work and everyday activities and disrupts sleep.
Depression – How to Recognise It
The symptoms of DEPRESSION are as follows:
Feeling– depressed, sad, anxious or bored
Energy-tired, fatigued, everything an effort, slowed movements
Sleep– waking during the night or too early in the morning, oversleeping or trouble getting to sleep
Thinking– slow thinking, poor concentration, forgetful or indecisive
Interest– loss of interest in food, work, sex and life seems dull
Value– reduced sense of self-worth, low self esteem or guilt
Aches– headaches, chest or other pains without a physical basis
Live– not wanting to live, suicidal thoughts or thinking of death
If 5 or more of the above FESTIVAL (acronym) symptoms are present for more than 2 weeks, it probably is a depressive episode.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is frequently preceded by set-backs in life, such as bereavement, relationship or financial difficulties, problems at work or medical illness. We all react to loss with a sense of disappointment which in its impact can vary from mild to disabling. An inherited tendency towards depression is a major factor in determining how depressed a person will become following a loss. Depression is not always brought on by a specific life event, however. Sometimes it can occur spontaneously, so if you’re suffering from any of the FESTIVAL symptoms above for more than 2 weeks, or even if you just need someone to talk to seek help.