Student Health

Mental Health & Stress

A quarter of us will have problems with our mental wellbeing at some point in time in our lives. Mental health is more common among students than the general population. If you feel you are experiencing any of these conditions or are concerned about your or a friend’s mental health, do not hesitate to contact your GP or the YSJ counselling services.

Depression in Students

Depression is where you feel sad or low for weeks or months, to an extent that it can interfere with your life and studies. Symptoms can include loss of interest in life, feeling like you can’t enjoy anything, feeling tired, loss of appetite, finding it harder to make decisions, having problems getting to sleep then waking up too early and loss of interest in sex. 

There are many different types of help available for depression including self help, talking therapies and medication.


Feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and often affect their daily life. Anxiety is defined by the following symptoms; increase in heart rate, sweating, sense of dread, shortness of breath, dizziness, insomnia.

Anxiety can be a difficult cycle to break so it is important to seek help early if you are concerned you are experiencing the symptoms. Similar to depression, there is a variety of help available.

Bipolar Disorder in Students

Bipolar is a condition that affects your mood and can make it swing from one extreme to the other. If you have bipolar disorder you will have periods, or ‘episodes’, of depression and mania lasting several weeks or more.

Eating Disorders in Students

Anorexia and bulimia are the main eating disorders that affect students, and are both more common in women. Anorexia involves severe, sometimes life threatening weight loss. Bulimia is more common and involves bingeing (eating lots of food) and then vomiting or purging on laxatives.

Eating disorders can lead to a lot of complications such as intestinal problems, brittle bones, hair loss and heart disease. It is important to seek help as soon as possible, as recovery can take some time.

Schizophrenia in Students

Schizophrenia affects around one person in 100 and is equally common in men and women. The symptoms may include hallucinations (especially hearing voices), paranoid delusions (false beliefs), difficulty concentrating and difficulty finding the motivation to do simple things.

Getting Help

  • Talk to someone you trust such as a friend, member of your family, or if it is affecting your work, your tutor.
  • Visit the university’s counselling services.
  • See your GP (they may refer you to NHS counselling, or prescribe medication). It is important to see your GP for persistent or serious mental health conditions.

There is more information on mental health available here.

Useful Links

Mental Health – Healthtalkonline – Healthtalkonline, an award-winning charity website, lets you share in other people’s experiences of health and illness.

Depression – An information sheet helping to understand more about the causes, treatment and understanding of Depression.

Mental Health Foundation – Founded in 1949, the Mental Health Foundation is a leading UK charity that provides information, carries out research, campaigns and works to improve services for anyone affected by mental health problems, whatever their age and wherever they live.

These links all come from trusted resources but if you are unsure about these or any other medical matters please contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Coping With Stress

You can also contact the University’s Counselling and Wellbeing Service.

University can be a very stressful time. Between lectures and seminars, you have to multi task deadlines, socialising, clubs or sports and sometimes part time work; all whilst everyone else is expecting you to have the best time of your life. Immense pressure is on students not just to fulfil grade expectations.

Being away from home for the first time can be difficult. If you feel stressed, it is best to talk to someone whether it be friends, family member, GP or counsellor and address what is making you feel this way.

Please feel free to come and see us if you are stressed. We would rather see you early, than wait till the exams, assignments and dissertations are upon you. Relevant leaflets are available in the surgery, or you can make an appointment with a member of our clinical team.

Self Help Stress Tips

  • Assess exactly what is making you anxious. For example, is it exams or money or relationship problems? See if you can change your circumstances to ease the pressure you’re under.
  • Try to have a healthier lifestyle. University is not exactly known for healthy living, but it is surprising what a little difference to your lifestyle can improve. Eat well, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. There are many sports and societies you can join or gym classes you can take part in at cheap prices. Moderate your alcohol intake and spend time socialising as well as working.
  • Try not to worry about the future or compare yourself with others.
  • Learn to relax. If you have a panic attack, or are in a stressful situation, try to focus or something outside yourself, such as watching the TV or talking to someone.
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises can also help relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Talk to a friend, tutor or someone in your family.

More information on stress and some useful self help tips are available here.

Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

Studies show that students are more likely to drink, smoke and take drugs than the general population.


Alcohol is a big part of university life. Cheap drinks, socials and student nights out are all the opportunities presented to you to go out and get drunk. However, getting drunk regularly or even drinking excessively on occasion can be damaging to your health.

Short term, alcohol can impair your academic performance (as you are more likely to miss lectures) and put you at immediate risk from such things from date rape to car crashes. You are also more likely to have unprotected sex. Long term, it can cause liver disease, an increased risk of a heart attack, weight gain and a number of different cancers.

The best thing to avoid the risks of alcohol is to know your limits. If you keep waking up the next day not remembering what you’ve done, it’s time to rethink your alcohol intake. Remember not to mix drinks, and try to alternate your drinks with a soft drink or water so not to get to drunk too quickly. Always have a meal before going out, and know how you will be getting home.

You can use the NHS Alcohol tracker to check how much you’re drinking, or the Unit Calculator to see how many units you’re racking up.

There is more useful information and tips to help cut down available here.


As with alcohol, there can be a lot of social pressure for students to smoke. However there are many risks involved. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease. It prematurely ages the skin and triples your chances of getting wrinkles around your eyes and mouth. It also causes impotence and reduced sperm count in men and reduces fertility in women. It can lead to gum disease, make the body store fat around the waist and increases the chance of cellulite.

Don’t assume that smoking will help you through exams. Medical evidence shows that smoking doesn’t calm you down. It is simply that nicotine cravings in between cigarettes make you feel stressed and anxious so when you have one you feel temporarily calm. You’ll feel less stressed once you quit and no longer have cravings.

If you would like help to quit smoking, you can make an appointment to see our nurse.

There is also lots of help available on the NHS Choices website.


Almost half of 16 to 24 year olds in England & Wales have tried drugs at least once, most commonly cannabis. Experimenting with drugs can sometimes be presented as part of the student experience. Never feel pressured into doing something that you are not comfortable with and don’t pressure anyone else into doing the same.

A lot of drugs can lead to long term psychological problems.

Drugs are illegal for a reason. They can risk your physical and mental health and can be very addictive. There are severe penalties for possession of some drugs (possession of a class A drug can lead up to 7 years in prison).

Universities will not look kindly on you if you are arrested for drug possession. Many universities would ban you from campus or drop you from your course.

The best way to minimize the risk of drugs is not to take them. Failing this, it is best to find out as much information as possible about any drugs you’re using including addiction, risks and mixing other drugs or alcohol. 

If you feel like you have, or may be developing a problem with drugs, you can make an appointment with the doctor who will be able to advise you on the best action to take.

Useful links:

Coughs, Colds and Flu

Coughs, Colds and ‘Flu’ like illness

These viral infections are collectively referred to as ‘Upper Respiratory Tract Infections’ (URTIs) and are an inevitable consequence of mixing with new people, who might introduce you to viruses that you have not previously encountered.

You will be familiar with the symptoms of headache, fever, runny nose, sore throat, hoarse voice and aching muscles, otherwise known as ‘flu’. Due to the close living conditions associated with living in halls of residence, such viral infections tend to cause epidemics. Whereas previously a careless sneeze would just have affected your family, you can now infect the whole dining hall!

As viruses, rather than bacteria, cause these infections, we have no treatment that affects a quicker recovery than allowing your own body to overcome the invasion.

The symptoms however can be alleviated by the following regime:

  • Take two paracetamol tablets and retire to your room (so you don’t infect anyone else).
  • Make sure that you drink plenty of clear fluids, ie non-milky drinks.
  • Keep cool and resist the temptation to get under lots of warm bedclothes.
  • After some three hours, dissolve two Aspirin tablets in water. Gargle with resulting mixture and swallow it down. (or take Ibuprofen)  Gargling is especially good for sore throats. (Remember Asthmatics may not be able to take some of these meds.)
  • After a further three hours you may start the cycle again and take two further paracetamol.

NB, You must not take more than eight paracetamol in any 24-hour period

By taking something before you are feeling really poorly, you will find that the treatment is much more effective and by alternating between Paracetamol and Aspirin/Ibuprofen you will not reach the toxic range of either drug.

Most viral infections last for about five days and need no other treatment than these simple remedies, however there are occasional complications to simple viral infections, when a bacterial infection takes over:

  • Acute ear infection: presents as a painful and deaf ear, affecting only one side.
  • Acute sinusitis: acute onset pain of the face centred around one eye or cheek.
  • Chest infection (especially affects smokers): chest pains on deep breathing associated with shortness of breath and coughing up discoloured phlegm.

If you suspect that you are developing one of these infections, you should consult the campus medical team.

Remember a “flu like” illness when you return from a Malarial area needs checking out.

Many people worry that the symptoms of early meningitis are similar to ‘flu’. Meningitis can mimic influenza, however, the symptoms of meningitis soon prevail:

  • A headache so severe, no relief is obtained from Aspirin/Ibuprofen or Paracetamol.
  • To move the head off the pillow is agonisingly painful.
  • The patient may develop fear of the light, as it causes worsening of the headache.
  • The patient becomes drowsy, withdrawn and uncommunicative.
  • They may develop a rash (discrete spots rather than pinpricks), which do not blanch when pressed upon with a glass.
  • The patient is obviously extremely unwell and getting rapidly worse.

Under these circumstances or if you are worried please telephone for advice straight away.

Please remember to keep an eye open for your fellow students who become unwell.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

Again, viruses cause most of these illnesses, and the symptoms of D&V are simply the body ‘getting rid’ of the agent that is causing the trouble! As such, it is best not to try to interfere with nature.

Vomiting usually passes off within 12 hours but diarrhoea may persist for several days. The most important thing to do is to rest the bowel, by not taking in any solid food. It is important however, to supply the body with sufficient water, sugar and salts to allow proper functioning of its vital organs.

The most sensitive measure of this is the amount of urine produced: urine ought to be passed every eight or so hours.

A convenient way of preventing dehydration is to refrain from solid food until the diarrhoea has stopped (ie, the bowel is empty) but to take fluid in the form of water, dilute juice, Lucozade or Coke.

Small frequent sips (about the volume of an eggcup) are much less likely to provoke vomiting than bigger drinks, which fill the stomach. It is advisable to wait some 24 hours after the cessation of vomiting before any solid food is attempted.

The crampy, colicky pains, produced when the bowel goes into spasm will go when there is nothing left inside to contract down onto, but there may be a recurrence of these symptoms when a light diet is resumed. Should this prove to be the case do not become discouraged, simply refrain from solid food for a further 24 hours.

Whilst Paracetamol will not cure the pains, it may well ‘take the edge off’ them.

If you pass any blood, either in the vomit or the diarrhoea, or you develop a temperature or feel that you are not progressing as outlined please contact the Surgery for further advice.

Please do not be tempted to buy ‘anti-diarrhoea’ agents from the pharmacy before you contact the doctor, as they may ‘lock in’ the germs and cause a chronic problem.

For more information click here.

Meningitis & Septicaemia

Meningitis C Booster Vaccination

The meningitis C vaccine – better known as Men C – protects against infection by meningococcal group C bacteria,  meningitis and septicaemia.

From late August 2014, students under the age of 25 who are starting university will NEED to have a catch-up booster of the Men C vaccine. This student catch-up programme will continue for several years until all university entrants have received a Men C teenage booster. Anyone under the age of 25 who hasn’t yet received Men C vaccination can have a single catch-up dose on the NHS.

If you do not receive this booster you can become extremely ill and will need urgent treatment. Once you have registered, call 01904 724775 and book an appointment for you Men C Vaccination. If you are unsure to whether you have had the booster, we can help you find out.

For more information have a look at the NHS Men C leaflet.

Meningitis and Septicaemia

These are serious diseases that can be deadly.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease.

Students need to be vaccinated against meningitis C ideally before coming to university. If you have not been previously vaccinated, it can be done by the university doctor.

There is no single vaccine that can prevent all forms of meningitis and septicaemia. Vaccinations only give protection against the group C strain. Students need to be vigilant against the B strain.

Symptoms include:

  • High temperature, being violently sick
  • Severe headache
  • Neck stiffness (can’t touch your chin to your chest)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Feeling drowsy or lethargic
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Rapid health deterioration
  • Rash of tiny red/purple pin prick spots which may spread to look like fresh bruising. In most cases the rash does not disappear when pressed firmly, for example if you were to press a glass against it.

Symptoms can appear in any order, and not all of them (including a rash) are always present. Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear. If you are concerned, seek medical advice straight away.

What to do if you suspect meningitis or septicaemia:

  • Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear seek medical advice immediately.
  • Explain why you are concerned describing the symptoms carefully. Ask for advice.
  • Be prepared to insist and ask if it could be meningitis. If it is, early diagnosis and treatment are vital.
  • If your doctor is unavailable, go to your nearest A&E department. Do not delay.
  • If someone is ill and getting worse, even if they have already had medical attention, seek medical attention again.

Students are particularly at risk as symptoms can appear flu-like or similar to that of a bad hangover. If you are concerned, check your symptoms. If you feel particularly unwell, tell someone. If your friend looks very ill, stay with them. If you or a friend experiences a rapid deterioration in health, get medical help immediately.

Flu, Hangover or Meningitis?

Symptoms may appear similar to flu or a hangover. But watch out specifically for:

  • A headache so severe, no relief is obtained from aspirin or paracetamol
  • To move your head off the pillow is agonisingly painful
  • The patient may develop fear of the light as it causes worsening of the headache
  • The patient becomes drowsy, withdrawn and uncommunicative
  • They may develop a rash (discrete spots rather than pinpricks) which do not fade when a glass is pressed on them
  • The patient is obviously extremely unwell and getting rapidly worse.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and Strains, Muscular and Joint Pains

If you have an injury severe enough to make you think that you may have broken a bone, we advise that you should attend the casualty department at York District Hospital, as you may need to have an X ray examination. This is open 24 hours per day.

If the injury appears to be less serious, there are several ‘first aid’ tips that will both reduce pain and diminish the effects of an injury:

“RICE” Advice

  • REST the affected area until the pain starts to decline (some 48 hours). 
  • ICE applied either as a cold compress or as a pack for several hours after injury.
  • COMPRESS the area with a firm supportive bandage.  
  • ELEVATE the affected area, above the chest for several hours, or thereafter whenever resting.

Painkillers may be taken either in the form of Aspirin (if allowed), Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, all of which are available from the chemist, without prescription.

As the pain starts to leave the affected area, you should commence gentle exercise and gradually return to normal activity. The pain should guide the rate of return and swelling; should you go too far, return to the RICE regime.

If you are worried or feel that you are not progressing satisfactorily, please consult the doctor.

Skin Problems


This is an extremely itchy skin disorder that leads to a rash and is highly contagious. It is spread via close skin-to-skin contact, but can be treated with an insecticide lotion that is appiled to the skin. Two applications of the lotion are required, one week apart. 

Scabies is caused by the scabies mite- a parasite, that lives on the skin and will slowly burrow under the skin. A person’s symptoms are due to the immune system reponse to the mites saliva, eggs, and faeces. The average number of mites on an infested person is 12.

For more information please click here.


This is a common problem because of the age range of the student population. There are many different effective treatments starting from those available at the chemists to drugs only prescribed by hospital consultants.

If you suffer from acne and have tried chemist preparations without success, please make an appointment to see one of the doctors who will be happy to discuss other treatments with you.

For more information please click here .

Warts and Verrucas

Again very common problems. They are caused by viruses and will remit spontaneously, though it can take a long time (years). They do not cause any harm but can occasionally be painful particularly on the sole of the foot. If you have a verruca or wart that you would like to get rid of, you can buy medication from the chemist or you can make an appointment with the doctor to have it frozen off.

This might require several applications.

For more information please click here . 


Most people have a few moles, but some have lots. There is nothing dangerous about the number of moles that you have, rather their behaviour. It is worthwhile inspecting all your moles periodically (some people even photograph them every year).

Changes in any mole should be shown to the doctor, but worrying signs include: itching, bleeding, hair loss, colour change (especially if it becomes blacker) or growth.

If you are at all worried please see the doctor: moles can generally easily be removed.

For more information please click here . 

Athlete’s Foot

This is a fungal infection and is common particularly if exercising and sweating a great deal. It is found between the toes, which are often reddened, cracked, itchy, and sore at the same time. Antifungal creams or ointments such as Canesten or Daktacort obtained from the chemist may be used to eradicate it, but will need to be used until all traces of the fungus have gone.

The doctor or nurse will be happy to advise if in doubt.

For more information please click here . 


If you have a scaly scalp and this has not responded to anti dandruff shampoos from the chemist, you may have a fungal infection of the scalp. In this case, a shampoo is available called Nizoral (Ketoconazole) which will eradicate it if used twice weekly over two/three weeks.

There are other medical conditions, which give rise to scaly scalps such as psoriasis so, if you have no success, again the doctor will be happy to advise.

For more information please click here .

Allergic Rashes

These are characteristically intensely itchy often blotchy and the individual, although uncomfortable, is not unwell. These are well treated with antihistamines (eg, Piriton 4mg eight hourly), which can be bought from the chemist.

If however there is any difficulty in swallowing or breathing, immediate medical help should be sought from casualty, as it may imply a generalised allergic or anaphylactic reaction.

For more information please click here


This is an infection that should be suspected when sores or cuts fail to heal or start to spread. It is not serious but spreads quickly and is highly infectious. It can be passed on to others by contact or sharing flannels, towels, etc and requires antibiotics in the form of tablets or ointment to cure it. An appointment will need to be made with the doctor for these.

For more information please click here.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common. They can be painful and uncomfortable, but they usually pass within a few days or can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics. They occur when germs get into the urine. You may notice that you want to pass water more often, with pain or a burning sensation.

What you can do

  • Try drinking plenty of water or squash, at least one cupful per hour.
  • Take potassium nitrate mixture – available from a pharmacy.
  • Take paracetamol if you are in pain.

When to see your GP?

Women should always see their GP the first time they have the symptoms of cystitis. They should also return to their GP if they have the condition more than three times in one year.

Contact the surgery if your symptoms last over 24 hours, or if there is blood in your urine. You may find that your UTI symptoms are mild and pass within a few days. However, if you are finding your symptoms very uncomfortable or if they last for more than five days, go to see your GP. Bring a urine sample in a clean container when you attend.

Also see your GP if you have a UTI and:

  • you develop a high temperature
  • your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • you are pregnant
  • you have diabetes

Testing UTIs

Urinary tract infections usually get better on their own within four or five days.

Antibiotics can help speed up recovery time and are usually recommended for women who keep getting UTIs. In some cases, long-term use of antibiotics help to prevent the infection returning.

More information on UTIs is available here.