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Students facing unique problems when it comes to mental health

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Universities UK recently released a report discussing challenges and improvements to student mental health at universities.

The 'Minding our Future' report identified students as having their own challenges in the realm of mental health support.

The growing student population comes with its own problems, such as universities' mental health services not being able to accommodate the increasing reports. According to a study conducted by The Institute for Public Policy Research, 94 percent of Higher Education institutions have reported an increase in demand for counselling services. 

The number of student suicides has drastically increased in the past several years. Between 2007 and 2016, the suicide rate among UK students increased by 56%. For the first time, the student suicide rate has overtaken the rate among young adults in the general population. 

In addition, the number of students who drop out of university because of mental health problems has tripled in recent years.

The Universities UK report cited that pressures of being the first member of the family to attend a university and having to work whilst studying contributed to mental health problems.

A major complication in treating students’ mental health is the inconsistency of counselling. Students typically move back and forth between their permanent and university homes frequently, meaning that students' mental health services were constantly disrupted.

This mobility can cause many different types of problems, from students missing appointments, struggling with long referral processes for new doctors, limiting access to free services and restricting the ability to access drop-in hours.

The report suggested partnerships between universities and local health services and the NHS so the students’ care can be streamlined and accessible whilst away from their university residences.

However, some measures that could be used to help improve student mental health are already in place at some universities. According to the report, 45 percent of High Education institutions have a student general practitioner on site. 

More proactive steps can also be taken, for example, 71% of institutions monitor student attendance in lectures. Habitual absence can act as an early indication of student mental health problems.

Kathryn, a student at the University of York, said she felt supported at university:

“My lecturers were great; they often checked in with me and helped where they could. It gave me peace of mind.” 

However, Cumbria student Jake felt that university support was absent during his three years as a student:

“I think universities pretend to care about the mental wellbeing of their students. Reality is – they couldn’t care less,” he said.

He also said that several of his friends, who attended different universities, said they felt the same way.

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