It's time to accept that student mental health is a genuine problem
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Statistics have shown that a startling one in five people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and it is estimated that it will take an average of ten years for an individual to receive treatment for their issue following the initial onset of symptoms. Campaigns such as Heads Together (headed by the Royal Foundation), a growing number of specialised charities, and the regular publishing of new statistics on mental health, leads us to believe that the stigma surrounding the subject is fading into the distance. However I can safely say that I can think of only a small number of my loved ones who haven’t experienced some kind of mental health issue – and whilst we might be becoming more willing to talk about it, it doesn’t mean that treatment is as forthcoming as we’d like. Whilst university is a place where an individual can easily start to develop mental health problems, it is often also touted as a place where students can be supported with an array of professionals and services that can get them through this transitional period in their lives. However, it seems to be here that the problem lies. Despite the overwhelming evidence, students are amongst the age group that are somewhat neglected by healthcare professionals and indeed the sympathy of ordinary people, as there seems to be an age restriction on mental health. I have heard countless remarks concerning the impossibility of a young people being diagnosed with a mental health issue, including statements such as “you’re too young to know what it is to be depressed”, “it’s the fashion to be ‘mentally ill’ these days”, and “you have no idea of the problems that it takes to be depressed”. It seems that the statistics can back me up here. A recent NUS survey found that 78% of students have experienced some issue in the last year, with only just over half (54%) receiving support for these problems. It is clear that the sheer size of this problem is going unnoticed. Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, suggests a possible factor in these trends: “Young people are coming of working age in times of economic uncertainty,” he says. “They are more likely to experience issues associated with debt, unemployment and poverty, and they are against increasing social and environmental pressures, all of which affect wellbeing.” And what place more riddled of social pressures than university? Today’s teenagers are bombarded with pressures from parents, academic authorities and general society to go to a top class university, excel academically and then land a job which earns them top dollar. Little thought is spared for their emotional wellbeing and happiness, and individuals find themselves following the path that they are lead to believe that they should take, rather than the one they wish to. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made this issue a prominent focus of their Heads Together campaign, which includes mental health charities that specifically support children and young people, and highlights the stigma of triviality surrounding the issues they face.
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