Stress & Mental Health Stigma

Eugene Li

Case Study

A student, who was recently diagnosed with depression and social anxiety, was beginning his education at the University of Edinburgh. He did not reach out for help prior to starting school besides prescribed antidepressant medications. In his second year of university, he faced the fact that he wasn’t coping with his issues at hand and needed to take a brief break called an Authorized Interruption of Studies. This entailed missing his summer exams and seeking assistance from the Student Disability Service (SDS).

Getting Help

While visiting with a mental health specialist, he spoke about how he struggled to complete work. He felt left out of the classroom, especially while in seminars and during group activities. When he shared his opinions with classmates he believed he sounded unintelligent and lost. Although he was able to communicate with his friends, his anxiety made him feel guilty that he was not working efficiently.  This stigma created a vicious cycle of low-motivation and he accepted that he couldn’t work effectively at all.

How could this relate to me?

Many students struggle with coping with the stress of school, relationships, extracurriculars and more. People tend to feel alone due to stigma around mental illness, however, when stressed, the brain releases oxytocin which makes people want to reach out for help. This response, known as the “tend and befriend” phenomenon is hindered by stigma surrounding mental illness, making people afraid to reach out for help. One method for stress and anxiety reduction is the Pomodoro Technique.

Reducing stress

To cope with this problem, the student used the Pomodoro Technique. First, he chose an activity that he needed to get done, like homework. He then set a timer to perform this work for about twenty-five to thirty minutes.  After the first timer rang, he was able to take a short break to destress and collect himself before starting up again for another approximate twenty five minutes. As he repeated this process four times, he was able to take longer breaks as time went on. By the time he commenced his final year of study, he felt well enough to be able to stop his regular sessions.

The Pomodoro Technique

For students who struggle with time management:

  1. Choose a task you’d like to get done
  2. Set a Timer for a specific time limit (25 minutes)
  3. Work on the task until timer rings
  4. Take a short break
  5. For every four time sets, take a longer break.



Case study: Supporting a student with a mental health problem. (2018, May 15). Retrieved from

Mental Illnesses in the Workplace. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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