Graduating and graduating is a historic achievement for many, but the process of earning a degree can have negative influences on the mental health and well-being of our students.
In recent years, there has been a shift in public discourse regarding mental health, particularly among the student population. The number of students reporting a mental health problem has increased by 450% over the past ten years. Despite this figure, UCAS estimates that in 2020, 49% of applicants did not directly disclose mental health information during the initial application process for fear of discrimination.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, fear of discrimination is common because stigma is still prevalent; despite large-scale efforts to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
It is difficult to understand the stigma surrounding mental health, given the proportion of the population that suffers from poor well-being or mental illness. Just under 2/3 of the UK population have experienced a mental health problem. 50% of mental health issues (mood, anxiety, psychosis, personality, eating and substance abuse) are established by age 14, and 75% by age 24. It is clear that our students are struggling and may have been struggling for some time. It is imperative that the mental health of children, adolescents and students be taken seriously.
Suicide and the Importance of Reporting
Students are struggling more than ever and there is a shortage of resources to help them when they need it. Suicides among the student population have been in the news lately,
pushing institutions to reconsider what is needed to better support their students.
The ONS has published at least 319 suicides in UK universities and colleges over a 4 year period (2016-2020), there is a 32% increase in male suicide deaths. Furthermore, a study by the British
The Medical Journal found that general primary care visit rates were 32% lower for men. Given that a UK student dies by suicide every 4 days and one in 5 students have made a suicide plan in the past year; Wellness offers and student support are no longer seen as a ‘tick-and-miss’ exercise.
The offers must take into account the needs of a diverse student community, beyond simple access to a hotline. 27% of suicides in the general population involved people who had been in contact with mental health services in the 12 months before their death. Unfortunately, the true seriousness of the problem of student suicide is not transparent. Freedom of Information requests sent by National World reveal that 59% of UK universities do not record student suicides, so the extent of the situation is hidden. Any suicide that occurs is a tragedy, accurate suicide statistics are needed to provide a reliable indicator of mental health.
How do the students feel?
With 3.7% of prospective students declaring a mental health problem in their application, compared to 37% of freshmen showing signs of moderate to severe depression, it is clear that we still have a lot to do to promote open discussions about mental disorders. health and wellbeing. It’s not just freshmen we have to consider. More than a quarter (37%) of UK students have seen their mental well-being worsen since starting university, which is further highlighted with 64% of students saying their studies and style of university life have a negative impact on their general well-being.
The ONS has published that the average life satisfaction score for students in the UK is 6.6 out of 10, compared to the general adult population in the UK out of 7. Students feeling lonely often or always are 17%, 10% more than the rest of the UK population.
Stressors and impacts on mental well-being
Students are particularly vulnerable to external stressors and negative impacts on well-being. A 2017 survey by UPP (an accommodation provider) found that 37% of students reported balancing work and study, 36% reported financial worries and 22% said independent living was a major concern in terms of well-being. Students naturally lose the priority of studies if their physiological needs are not met.
The number of UK students who have dropped out of their courses due to the cost of living crisis has risen by 25% this year. Nearly 40,000 students dropped out of their courses. Independent living can be lonely and requires adjustment. Students may not be able to afford food, which causes further depression and anxiety. This could lead to more serious behaviors and developing coping mechanisms. 23% of new students suggested they might have issues with food or body image, with 27% saying they might have an eating disorder. If a person is used to their family constantly being there, providing food and checking in, self-sufficiency can be a huge leap forward.
Individuals react differently to stressors. It is important to consider mental health on a case-by-case basis, some triggers may be detrimental to one person but have no impact on another. Student welfare services should provide a range of supports in the hope of meeting the needs of a diverse student body.
Accessing services 94% of UK universities have seen an increase in demand for consultancy services over the past 5 years. The number of students needing access to mental health services increased by 66% over the same period. This is reflected in research earlier this year which found that 43% of UK students felt they needed help managing their own wellbeing.
There is an overall increase in the use of wellness services. Research by the mental health charity Humen found that across 80 universities, 57% of respondents had used mental health services, including counselling, helplines, self-help resources assistance and wellness groups. The resulting increase in demand for support has put significant pressure on the support of existing student services – with students routinely waiting weeks or months before engaging in counseling or therapy services. Student populations are struggling as NHS and campus resources are stretched beyond their capacity.
This is highlighted in a recent NUS report which found that 47% of students used GPs or primary care services and 30% went to see a private counselor or mental health service provider. Given the financial situation of many students, access to private care is not an option. Furthermore, Humen’s research found that only 4% of all UK university staff had received ‘adequate’ training in mental health, either to spot ‘warning signs’ or to start a dialogue about mental health. with a student. Support is needed for teachers and other relevant staff to further protect student welfare. New solutions and practices are needed to ensure access to resources and help ease the strain on traditional services on campus.
To be effective, in-person support services and digital solutions can be integrated. This type of integration of services would allow each student to access the level of care appropriate to his or her personal situation.
With the increasing prevalence of mental health issues among students, it is becoming increasingly important to provide mental health supports through methods that can complement in-house face-to-face services.
Access to video counseling ensures increased access to existing resources for those most at risk. Additionally, video counseling/digital resources accept that mental health is not limited to office hours. A 24/7 element can be found in digital services like phone, SMS, live chat to ensure that no student falls through the cracks when they are most vulnerable.
A wide range of factors such as physical health, financial well-being, and sense of belonging all help shape an individual’s mental well-being. Therefore, it is important that student support services that can help them in many areas are available to students to help them manage their overall situation.
A multi-pronged approach is needed to meet individual needs, because what may work for some is not guaranteed to work for another. Physical health supports can include things like access to online classes and gym memberships, mental health supports can include access to self-guided learning or
video consultation for example. Universities should aim to create a holistic and customizable curriculum to support wellbeing.
Steps to support student mental health
To achieve balanced mental health and well-being for students, it is essential to dedicate time
to understand institutional needs.
- To research
Carry out an in-depth analysis of student needs. Recent analysis of students who
engaged with the Spectrum.Life SAP program found that 40% of students were dealing
with anxiety as the main problem. With this information, you could identify gaps
to access anxiety support and potentially invest more in these areas.
- Determine the needs and priorities of the establishment
What is the main objective? Goals shape future activities, they can include
reduce wait times, free up existing resources, or provide 24/7 support for
- Ensure the success of your wellness strategy
Before implementing your strategy, it is crucial to develop a
well-being communication strategy to introduce any new external support to your
students to encourage participation and increase overall access to services, also
ensure that care pathways are simple.
Additionally, some wellness offerings allow for population reporting that allows
large-scale anonymous feedback. This allows your institution to inform future
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