Opinion: The student mental health crisis: What do the statistics say?

Starting university is a major change for any young person, and although it creates so many exciting opportunities it can also be overwhelming. 95 per cent of ‘higher education institutions’ reported an increased demand for counselling services, but we must ask - why is this?

The main issue that's been shown to cause the highest amount of stress amongst students is the academic pressures of university. A study done by ‘Unite Students’ has shown that 71 percent of students felt that ‘preforming well in tests and coursework caused them stress’ and 65 per cent felt stressed trying to keep up to date with coursework. This coincides with the graduate job market becoming more competitive, with fewer availabilities for the total number of students graduating. This makes it the second highest stress of university with 39 percent of students stating that they felt stressed about job prospects. There is also the added pressure of making sure that students come out of their degree with at least a higher second-class honour, with 70 percent of graduate employers only taking applicants with these grades.

The financial burden of university is another factor which students face, this is a different issue of which was not as prominent in past generations. In a ‘Unite Students’ survey 41 percent of students reported that they were feeling ‘very of fairly concerned with being able to pay back loans’, with 48 per cent of these students being from a lower socio-economic background. However, three quarters of students will never fully pay back their loans. Many students tend to struggle with managing their own finances for the first time.

A poll conducted by ‘HSBC’ showed that one fifth of students managed to spend their loans in the first one hundred days of receiving it, with an average student spending three fifths of their loans in the same amount of time. Another survey conducted by ‘Save the Student’ showed that 60 percent of students did not feel that their loans were enough in order to live on, with 46 percent admitting that the worry of money negatively affected their mental health.

The stigma associated with mental health is something that universities desperately need to address. This is especially prominent with men, who are three times as likely to disclose a mental health concern but also twice as likely to die from suicide than women. There is also the issue with students that when they move away from home they feel as if they are losing their support system such as a regular GP, friends and family.

This is an issue as it affects the continuity of care that vulnerable students might need. ‘The NHS is not set up to support students as they move between home and university’, this is demonstrated through the fact that students cannot yet register with two GPs.

Although there are areas where universities need to change in terms of support for mental health and wellbeing, the biggest issue is with the NHS and its ability to cater to the needs of students. 

16-25-year olds are the most vulnerable age range to develop mental health issues and with 64 percent of the student population falling under this category more support needs to be available. The time for change is now.

[Words by Jade Adams]


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