Stress and Depression in British Asian Students

The number of students seeking help with stress and depression at university has more than doubled in recent years. We explore this rising trend.

Stress and Depression

YouGov statistics show that 1 in 4 university students suffer from mental health problems

University is one of the most stressful times in a young person’s life.

The whole experience can become very overwhelming and sometimes it may become too much, leading towards severe stress and depression.

Many students, especially British Asian students, may be scared to speak out about how they’re feeling to family members and friends because of the attitudes surrounding mental illness.

Some students may feel as if they are letting their family down by not being able to cope with university and finishing their studies.

Although everyone will experience stress and have low periods throughout this time in their life, often it may go further than just feeling down and it is important to get help for this.

Why is Depression so common in University students?

University is a stressful time for students. On top of all the work they have to do, many of them are also living away from home for the first time.

Pressure is put on them to form relationships, both friendships and romantic, as well as the pressure to have a good social life whilst keeping on top of their studies.

As well as this, they have to think about getting a job after they leave university.

For many students, this can all become a bit too much.

Statistics show that mental health problems are as common amongst students as they are in the general population.

YouGov statistics show that 1 in 4 university students suffer from mental health problems. 77% of these have depression related problems.


The Thin Line between Stress and Depression

When stress levels become high, students may mistake this for depression. It is important to remember that depression is a mental illness.

However, that is not to say that stress is not seen as a serious problem and treatment, such as counselling is still available.

Alan Pearcy, head of counselling at the University of Oxford says: “Students often come to us expecting to be given a prescription of some kind, but a lot of difficulties are not caused not medical problems, but by normal life problems, such as family or relationship issues, or anxiety about their work.

“While these problems are distressing, through counselling we can help students to understand them, and then suggest strategies for dealing with their feelings.”

Signs of Stress

According to NHS Choices, the warning signs of stress are:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems

Although stress is normal, especially throughout university, too much of it can lead to physical and psychological problems such as:

  • Anxiety which has a range of symptoms from uneasiness to severe and paralysing panic
  • Dry mouth
  • Churning stomach
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression


Signs of Depression

Depression is feeling down for weeks or months. To such an extent that it interferes with your life and studies, makes you feel hopeless.

It can even go to the extent of making you suicidal. According to NHS Choices, the symptoms of depression are:

  • A loss of interest in life, feeling like you can’t enjoy anything
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Finding it harder to make decisions. Feeling disengaged from, or unmotivated to do things
  • Having problems sleeping and then waking up too early
  • Decline in sex drive, even a loss of interest

South Asian attitudes towards Student Depression

Mental illness still remains a taboo in the South Asian community, which is an added pressure for Britual Asian students going through depression.

Many Asian students attend university. Some may feel pressured into going from their family members, even if it isn’t the right choice for them.

They may choose a course based on what their parents want them to do, which would cause extra stress than usual. Especially if it’s not what they truly want to do.

The South Asian community is known for their high expectations, including expecting the younger generation to attend University.


A large proportion of the older generation may still believe that going to university is the only way to get a good career and marriage prospects. Again making it even harder for British Asian students to leave university.

Rupa* says: “One of the things I was most worried about when dropping out of university was what my family would say and think. So much so that I put it in front of my own wellbeing.

“I was afraid that I would let them down, especially as most of my family members around the same age as me had been and completed university.

“At first my family didn’t really understand and told me to stay there and stick it out. They said it was just stress which was normal at University and I’d be fine in a few weeks. However, I knew it was more than the stress my friends were experiencing.

“However, after receiving counselling from my University I fully opened up to my parents and told them everything.

“Although it came as a bit of a shock, all of my family members were very understanding. Especially after they found out how unhappy I was there. At the end of the day, my happiness and well being was more important to them.

“I would advise anyone in the same position to open up about what they’re going through even if it’s just to one person, slowly but surely things will start to get better from there.”

However, there are many organisations that can provide the necessary help and someone to talk to if talking to family members is difficult or not possible.

Students should not feel alone or helpless while at university. And they should seek support as soon as possible.


Getting Help

The Students Against Depression website offers support, advice and resources to help students facing stress and depression.

University student welfare – Most, if not all UK Universities provide students with free counselling for students as they know how big a problem is at University. Visit your University’s website for information and details on their mental health care and counselling.

Make an appointment with the GP – The GP will provide patients with the necessary advice and treatment needed to cope with the stress and depression.

Samaritans – If it ever gets too much, the Samaritans provide a free anonymous helpline 24 hours a day on 116 123 (UK)

Kiesha is a journalism graduate who enjoys writing, music, tennis and chocolate. Her motto is: “Don’t give up on your dreams so soon, sleep longer.”

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