As many young people face increasing pressures at college and university, the number of students with mental health problems, such as stress, is becoming much more of a concern. According to figures released by the NHS, the number of students who are contacting counselors, often in their college or university, is a significant amount higher than those outside of educational institutions. According to the Association for University and College Counselling, the figure is somewhere between three and ten per cent, which, in reality, may not sound like a big number, but if you think of ten per cent of the student population, the gravity of the problem becomes much clearer.
The main problems are usually depression or stress, often as a result of college work and/or things that may be going on at home. Surely it is time for educational institutions to expand their counselling services or at least direct young people to other organisations that may be able to help? If you think about it, it’s a vicious circle. Students become stressed about college and then are so stressed that they get behind on work. This is likely to make them even more stressed. Intervention at an early stage is key. Even a report into the issue by the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that it is more than a few isolated cases. I must admit that the whole problem doesn’t stop at the college door; however, if the support was there for both work and home life, this would considerably improve the situation.
Recent cuts in both the health service and the education system have had a detrimental effect on the standard of psychological services. Nevertheless, there should still be a standard provided that is fit to support those students who in many cases desperately need it. Many of these students have great potential and want to learn; however, if there isn’t sufficient provision put in place, some will not get the chance to fulfil that potential. The rate of student suicides is getting worse and is something that no college or university should ignore. The health and wellbeing of students should be the key policy of each and every institution. After all, if students are healthy and achieving highly then that is to the benefit of the student and the college/university alike.
If you would like to find out more about how much of a problem this is, please visit PsychCentrals page which has some rather interesting stats. The government needs to wake up to a problem that is right in front of them, even if it means cross-department cooperation. They may be facing massive debts, but how do they think university students feel, facing the financial stress of having to pay thousands of pounds for their education, some of whom will never manage to pay such money back?
Overall, I don’t exactly know if there is one straight answer to such a complex issue. What I do know is that someone needs to act- sooner rather than later- to make sure that we have healthy and highly achieving students. I know there is a stigma around mental health; however, this doesn’t mean that we can just ignore it. We need to act now and act fast or face the consequences.
Backbench Minister of Education