A new study has highlighted the increasing number of students struggling with mental health problems.
The survey released by The Insight Network and student organisation Dig-In, was the largest mental health survey to date conducted on UK university students. Over 21,000 students across 140 universities took part in the study, with a combined 80,000 students participating over the past three years.
Findings revealed an 8% year-on-year rise in students who had experienced a serious personal, emotional, behavioural, or mental health problem which they needed professional help and support with, meaning nearly half (42%) have needed professional help and support.
These new figures went on to reveal that 27% of students have one or more official mental health diagnosis, a 5% rise from the previous year. An overwhelming 78% of students who were diagnosed were said to have concealed symptoms of ill mental health due to worries around stigma.
Despite 82% of students being aware of the range of support services offered by their university, just 13% said they have accessed them. Two thirds (63%) would make use of an online mental health professional if this service was made available to them, raising concerns about the effectiveness of current methods of support widely offered, and if enough online and distance counselling and support are being provided.
This latest research, created through an ongoing collaboration between The Insight Network and Dig-In, is helping to build a bigger picture of students’ mental health in the UK.
In late 2019, it was revealed that black students with mental health conditions were widely being failed by the system. Also, OfS statistics showed that black students with mental health conditions are more likely to drop out of university, achieve lower grades, and less likely to get a graduate-level job upon graduation.
Dr Stephen Pereira, consultant psychiatrist and Director of the Insight Network, shared his thoughts on their latest findings:
“Starting university can be a major transitional period for young people and one in four students experience mental health problems each year. Students may be vulnerable to psychological difficulties due to the interaction of a vast array of university-specific challenges. These stressors include moving away from home for the first time, establishing new networks, developing new identities, new intellectual demands, and financial strains.
“Mental health problems can cause severe emotional, behavioural and physical health problems. In order for universities and government agencies to provide effective and efficient psychological support, it is crucial to understand the scale and psychological makeup of the student mental health challenge in the UK.
“There are some causes for concern about student mental health detailed in this report. Mental health issues can be effectively managed if individuals are able to access the right treatment in adequate time. We hope that these findings will serve as both a call to action and a guide for students, their family and friends plus universities, the NHS and government agencies to work together to meet students’ mental health needs.”