mental health services for university students

The number of university students seeking mental health support has risen dramatically in the last four years, latest statistics show.

A Freedom of Information request returned by most of the universities in the UK shows a major rise, and many institutions struggling to keep pace with funding for mental health staffing.

Figures for four regional universities where thousands of South Cheshire students go – Chester, Keele, Staffordshire and MMU – show a similar pattern.

At Keele University, the number of students accessing mental health services rose from 565 in 2012-13 to 876 in 2016-17.

A similar rise was experienced at Staffordshire University, from 411 students to 620 including a large rise between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Meanwhile, University of Chester saw a staggering rise from 373 in 2012-13 to more than 1,100 in 2016-17.

And Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), saw a rise from 1,210 to 1,449 over the same four-year period.

Keele has increased its budget for mental health services from £158,000 to £342,000 over the same period, while MMU increased its budget from £306,000 to £573,167.

Staffordshire and Chester did not provide budget figures, but said mental health service staffing increased from two to four (Staffordshire) and 8 to 10 (Chester) in the four-year period.

However, it is not possible to compare between universities as data supplied by each is recorded in various ways.

The statistics were compiled by the BBC Shared Data Unit amid concerns that increasing numbers of students are suffering depression and anxiety problems, and a rise in suicides and suicide attempts among the student population.

Eva Crossan Jory – NUS Vice President (Welfare), said: “On many campuses, we hear that these services are chronically overstretched and underfunded.

“Although a greater number of students are attempting to access mental health services, there are still structural issues that present barriers to others.

“There is a growth in demand over the last decade, in part, because the reality of studying in the UK has changed so much. Students have far less money in their pockets than in previous years.

“Many are balancing work, study and caring responsibilities.

“With fees so high, and the job market so competitive, students feel they have to continually push themselves, perhaps more so than before.

“Many are chronically sleep deprived and overworked – there is also an increase in reports of loneliness, isolation, depression and anxiety.

“There has been much public discussion about university mental health, however we are yet to see the requisite action.

“Universities are taking ownership of the issue, and a commitment from Vice Chancellors is a step in the right direction.

“Any initiatives must be based upon proper research involving a diverse range of students, consultation with staff and their trade union, and a willingness to consult with best practice when designing services.”

A spokesperson for Student Minds, a UK student mental health charity, said: “We need to see an increase in funding not only for the provision of support in services, but also to support the partnerships between student support services and other aspects of the university such as academic departments, accommodation and activities to promote mental health literacy.

“Improving student mental health lies in a whole university approach, which looks holistically at all aspects of the student experience.

“All aspects of the university experience must be supportive to students’ mental health, through supporting the transition into university, maintaining good wellbeing during studies, providing support for mental health difficulties and being responsive in a crisis.

“Key to this approach is ensuring young people have agency, whilst empowering the community around them to have the health literacy and tools to respond.

“Universities must ensure students have access to timely, youth-friendly support and resources.

“A range of support that is appropriate for students needs must exist and be widely communicated at university.

“Students identify that the fear of being judged, and the worry that mental health may be seen as a weakness can impact on their ability to seek help.

“Universities must work to dispel the stigma associated with mental health difficulties. All members of staff at a university must be able to signpost students to relevant support.”

In a statement, Universities UK (UUK), the advocacy organisation for universities in the UK, said: “Universities take seriously their duty of care to students and staff. We are proud of the work done by student support and welfare services around the country.

“But we know universities cannot address these complex challenges alone.

“In particular, as set out in our recent report, we are working to improve the links with local health services.

“As the UK government details its 10-year funding plan for the NHS, we urge them to consider the particular health needs of the 2.3 million students across the UK.

“With 50% of school leavers now entering higher education, our mentally healthy universities will play a leading role in supporting a generation of young adults to thrive and succeed.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website, to learn more please read our privacy policy.


Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.