It’s no secret that the mental health services available for students at universities across the UK are pretty shocking. From hour long mindfulness workshops to counselling services only available on certain days and only during term time, to the stress management booklets handed out during the first week of the year. Is it any wonder that students are feeling let down by their university and the lack of mental health support on offer to them?
The good news is, according to research conducted by The Guardian last month, the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses is slowly but surely disappearing as more people come forward to speak about their problems and ask for help. They found that the number of students seeking counselling at university has increased by 50% in the last 5 years.
The bad news is that universities around the UK are still not equipped with the resources needed to support students.
It really isn’t all that surprising that the number of students seeking counselling at university has doubled, what with more students applying to university than ever before, an increase in fees, a rise in rent in some parts of the UK, and just general life pressures. Being a teen/twenty-something in 2016 can be a hard job at times.
Sometimes venting to a mate about deadline stress or how much you’ll have to work this month to make sure you can pay the rent can relieve a little bit of anxiety. But other times talking to a professional and learning techniques to cope with stress, anxiety and depression might be what you need. The sad thing is many universities across the UK can’t meet the demands of students seeking mental health support.
Failing to meet demands
Even though asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of, for a student with a mental health illness it can be a daunting task. For many students, it takes all they have in them to build up the courage to approach a counselling service and open up to someone. So you can imagine how disheartening it is to finally get to that point and be told by a GP that you will be added to a waiting list. When a student is at that point, ready to open up and get help, the time to talk is now, not in 2 months when you can finally be squeezed into an appointment book. Waiting weeks for an appointment might not only put a student off opening up but could also make things a whole lot worse.
There have been countless investigations into the quality of mental health facilities available for students at university. A recent Higher Education Policy Institute report acknowledged that, “support is hard to access, universities often underfund their counselling services and the NHS does not recognise how vulnerable students are,” and called on UK universities to triple their spending on mental health support for students.
University of York leading the way
Last month it was announced that the University of York would invest £500,000 into mental health care facilities available on-campus for students, following a 6-month review of the university’s services. The aim is to expand the university’s in-house counselling facilities over the next 3 years to ensure that students can get appointments much quicker than they currently can.
While there are other factors that have influenced the University of York’s decision to invest, such as the closure of the local mental health hospital, the important thing is they are taking the first step in the right direction.
Now, it’s time for the other universities in the UK to pull up their socks and follow suit, for the sake of our mental health and wellbeing.