AS soon-to-be students stock up on houseware and home comforts, an Oxford expert has raised concerns about increasing pressures at university.

A new influx of freshers are set to descend on the city, with Oxford Brookes' term beginning in mid September and Oxford University at the start of October.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Hayley van Zwanenberg, who is based at The Priory Wellbeing Centre in New Inn Hall Street, said the transition can put a strain on mental health.

She said: "A stereotype exists of students drinking coffee all day and partying at night, but the truth is many students start university life knowing that their debt levels are rising by the day.

"We know that increasing numbers are accessing mental health services."

Dr van Zwanenberg raised concerns about mounting pressure to succeed, paired with the new challenges of living costs and independent learning.

The psychiatrist, who is also involved with the Oxford ADHD Centre in Headington and Oxford Medical Practice in Banbury Road, added: "Leaving home and starting a new life of study in an unfamiliar place can be a daunting and difficult experience.

"Homesickness and first year nerves are common feelings and should not be ignored, although they usually pass.

"What is more concerning to me is the additional burdens that freshers are increasingly carrying on their shoulders: financial worries, lack of resilience or experience of looking after yourself, and pressure to achieve top grades, are creating a negative impact on student life."

She cited recent statistics suggesting more students are seeking professional help for mental health issues, and more are dropping out of courses due to mental illness.

Encouraging students to speak up, she said: "I cannot stress how important it is to open up and talk. "There is no shame – and certainly should be no stigma – in admitting you are feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope or experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.

"As a society, we may also need to accept that student days have changed over the decades and whilst there's no reason they shouldn’t still be some of the best days of your life, parents and teenagers may have to learn to adjust their expectations and be prepared for some pitfalls and pressures along the way."

Her top tips for avoiding depression and anxiety included seeking help, phoning home regularly, and joining a social club.

Dr van Zwanenberg noted there are 'fantastic' support services available for students, adding: "These provide an ideal opportunity to talk through problems – whether practical, emotional or financial.

"Often, that is all that is needed to reverse a situation and prevent a downward spiral into depression."