The UK Health Services and the universities are not able to keep up with the increasing number of students affected by mental health issues. Many students feel left alone and unheard.
In the average classroom of 20 students, at any given time, four individuals could be struggling with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. According to the Mental Health Institute UK, mental health challenges affect more people than heart disease or cancer.
In the UK, half of all high school graduates decide to pursue higher education at a university. Such pressure on students is a breeding ground for mental health issues. More research conducted on British students shows that for a staggering 70%, university life is the most common reason for bad mental health.
Considering all these numbers, mental health should be a top priority for educational institutions and the government. But the opposite seems the case.
“I didn’t even try to apply for help because I never heard of anyone having a good experience,” reports Noel, a UK student. Next to immensely long waiting lists he complains about untrained personnel.
Universities seem overwhelmed and not adequately equipped to deal with the rise in mental health issues among young people. This is partly because some students require specialized treatment that a university simply cannot provide. But also, the complications of referring students to health services is an obscure process in the UK. The National Health Services are not organized in a way that caters to students’ needs.
Long waiting times can leave students feel helpless. Especially in times of peak stress, this can have fatal consequences. According to the Mental Health Institute, suicide is the second-most prominent cause of death among students.
As a response, a large number of universities are starting to incorporate classes focused on promoting health and how to maintain good mental health. While that is a good start, healthy behavior should not be taught only in words but also in practice.
Libraries that close at night can reinforce better sleeping patterns. Healthy food in vending machines and at the cafeteria enables students to choose a healthy diet. Low-cost facilities for physical activity allow students to easily exercise.
University life is supposed to be fun and enjoyable for students, not mentally draining. With the right support system, that can be made a reality.