Students Waiting Longer For University Mental Health Support

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Warning: content may be distressing, mentions anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.

As the number of British students with mental health difficulties increases, the delay to accessing professional help from the University remains low across most of the country.  

Many factors can influence a student’s susceptibility to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression: feeling uprooted and lonely after leaving one’s home and friends, the pressure of academic work, fear of one’s future, and personal circumstances. Since 2010, the number of students diagnosed with a mental illnesses has increased by five times: 21.5% have been diagnosed with a mental condition, and 39% have been affected by a psychological condition leading them to look for professional help. The results of several government reports have been suggestive of a ‘crisis‘ in student mental health in the country.

Most universities offer counselling services and/or put students in contact with the NHS, cognitive behavioural therapy providers and therapists. Although the demand for such services has skyrocketed since 2010, the delays to access university support varies greatly from one institution to another, and are often lengthy: students have had to wait up to twelve weeks in the worst cases, longer than an academic term. These delays are under scrutiny, as anxiety and depression can lead to self-harm and substance abuse as coping mechanisms: the 2018 Student Mental Health Survey showed that 45% of diagnosed students used alcohol and drugs and 9% were prone to self-harm. Mental illnesses may also be fatal: between July 2016 and July 2017, an estimated 95 students took their own lives in Great Britain, and 12 have committed suicide in the past three years at the University of Bristol alone.

Universities are being encouraged ‘not just to do more of what they have been doing but to review existing support and to design and resource appropriate services based on need‘, according to John de Pury, assistant director of policy at Universities UK, and to develop ‘prevention and early intervention‘ approaches.

The University of Southampton Enabling Services offers drop-in sessions Monday to Friday, 1-3pm in Building 37. A range of other help services is also available.

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, like you could be a danger to yourself or others, you can talk to the Samaritans at 116 123.

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Science and Tech editor 2019/20, Fourth year Marine Biology student. Can be found at the pool, the sea or on a windsurf board.

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