Feeling alone or isolated as a university student is more common than you might think. Moving away to a new town or city and getting used to a different living situation can be tough, especially at the start when you may not know anybody. Sometimes feeling isolated or lonely can also affect students in later years of their degree. You might even experience these feelings when there are lots of people around you.
For most students these feelings can be lessened if you take steps to build and maintain connections with new people and find enjoyable things to keep you busy in your spare time. Examples may include joining clubs and societies or taking up a new hobby.
For blind and partially sighted students, loneliness and isolation can be an even more common experience. This might be because you’re struggling to get out and about and socialise in a new environment. You may feel that other people don’t fully understand your vision impairment when you go on a night out or join a society. If you choose to move away from home, you might experience loneliness if you find it hard to adapt to life in shared accommodation away from your family and friends and your other support mechanisms. If these negative feelings are not addressed they can lead to more serious mental health difficulties, such as depression or anxiety.
By familiarising yourself with the support available to you during your studies and prioritising your wellbeing, you can work to keep negative feelings at bay. It also means you can get the most out of all the great opportunities university life has to offer. With the right support in place, all these difficulties can become easier to manage.
Support from your university
Each university will offer slightly different services when it comes to supporting students who feel lonely or isolated. Have a look at your university’s website to find out more about what they offer and how to access the help you need. Your university disability team can also signpost you to the right help. Here are some of the things your university may offer:
- Disability and mental health advisors – your disability team can offer mental health support alongside support for your vision impairment. This could include referring you to specialist mental health services external to the university or referring you for counselling or other help.
- Mentoring or buddy schemes. Your university may run a scheme which matches new or less confident students with more experienced students to help you get used to university life.
- Counselling service – your university may offer an on-site counselling service if you’d like longer term help with managing your negative thoughts and feelings.
- Chaplaincy team – most universities have a chaplaincy team who can offer pastoral support and a listening ear to students of all faiths or none.
- Students Union support – the Students Union linked to your university can tell you about societies, events and volunteering opportunities that can help you connect with other people. They may also have their own mental health and wellbeing advisors.
Support from charities
Uni In Sight
Our Student Support Service has created a range of useful resources to support blind and partially sighted students manage and make the most of all the amazing opportunities university has to offer outside of the lecture room. Welcome to our Uni In Sight guide!
We have advice for students about living at university, getting out and about and getting involved in sports. There are also tips and advice on vision and hearing impairment for flatmates, friends and those who may support a student with a vision or hearing impairment. We also cover guidance for organisers of social events on how to make the activities more accessible for blind and partially sighted students.
We also have our Student Support Community on Facebook, a safe space where you can connect with other blind or partially sighted students in a positive and supportive environment. Join the group here!
RNIB offer a range of support for blind and partially sighted people to help you feel connected with others. The support available includes a free counselling service, support groups, wellbeing courses and a series of ‘good mental health guides. You can find out how to access RNIB’s Mental wellbeing resources here.
Look UK run a mentoring scheme which matches blind and partially sighted young people aged 11 to 29 with a mentor who is also at university or a recent graduate. Your mentor will be there for you to talk to about all aspects of university life. Find out more about Look UK’s Peer Mentoring Projects for VI Young People.
Guide Dogs can support you if difficulties with your mobility are causing you to feel isolated. They offer a My Sighted Guide service which can match you up with a volunteer to help you participate in social activities. Find out more about Guide Dogs’ Help for adults services.
Student Minds is a student mental health charity that offers a range of resources to help empower students to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills to look after their mental health.
Other sources of support
- If your university town, city, or county has a local blind society or charity, they may offer social events or support to help you connect with other blind or partially sighted people in the area.
- If you are in university accommodation, your accommodation provider may have a member of staff who can offer support if you are feeling isolated. Some accommodation blocks put on social events for students to help them settle in and get to know other residents.
I’m currently experiencing a serious mental health crisis. What should I do?
If your life may be at risk or you do not think you can keep yourself or someone else safe from harm, call 999. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one. You will not be wasting anyone’s time.
If you think you need urgent mental health support or advice, please contact your local NHS urgent mental health helpline. You can find your local service via the following link:
Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline in England
Similar services are also available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can find out about support in your area by calling 111.
If you would like to talk to someone at any time of day or night about anything you are struggling with, you can call the Samaritans listening service on 116123.
If you or a young person you know are not coping with life, you can call Papyrus’ HOPELINK phoneline for suicide prevention advice on 0800 068 4141, between 9am and 12pm, or text 07860 039 9637.