It’s getting to the point in the term where the reality of university is kicking in. Freshers is long gone. The partying has slowed down, the workload is creeping up and uni is feeling less like a holiday each day. Chances are homesickness, stress, loneliness and doubt are beginning to take over. You might be starting to think ‘this isn’t what I thought it would be’. Or, be asking yourself ‘is this it?’ You may even notice that your mental wellbeing is beginning to suffer as a result.
If you are feeling far from the carefree student you imagined yourself to be…
You’re not alone.
It might not be discussed as openly as the highs of university, but changes to mental health are common amongst students. In fact, one in four people who go to university will report experiencing a mental health problem. A number that rises to 34% for women and almost 50% for LGBTQ students.
University often requires you to adopt a completely different life. You move to a different location, have to make new friends and gain a workload that would make anyone feel out of their depth. It’s hardly surprising that 77% of mental health suffers at uni have depression-related problems and 74% report high levels of anxiety. If you feel like this is taking over your university experience and interfering with your daily life, 63% of students feel the same. Or, maybe you just can’t escape a fear of failure? Neither can 77% of students.
According to the students surveyed, respondents report the following reasons for stress:
- 71% is caused by work from university
- 39% from worry about finding a job after university
- 35% from family life
- 23% pressure from relationships
- 22% pressure from friends
Student Minds Editor, Jodie Goodcare, had this to say about the stress:
University is so often talked about as being the best years of your life, a place where you will make lifelong friends, get involved with many societies and gain independence. However, this is a large leap in a person’s life and it can bring with it a number of difficulties. What is not often discussed is the level at which mental health problems exist, with the number of students dropping out from university courses due to mental illness increasing significantly in recent years.
What is being done to ease this worry?
All universities will have help on hand in some way. Plus, the good news is that the majority of students are aware that a counselling service that they were able to access was available on campus. Only 14% were unaware of services that they could make use of. Satisfaction levels were relatively high too. Of the 18% of students that had made use of the mental health services at their university, 30% found that the service was helpful and 45% said that it was somewhat helpful.
According to Lucy Miller, Editor at The National Student:
“The majority of universities will have a mental health advisor on campus who is dedicated to supporting students through issues, no matter how big or small, with whatever resources they have available. You can normally identify who your advisor is by visiting your student union website.”
It’s certainly a start.
But, are uni’s doing enough?
Whilst there is a percentage of people that view the mental health services positively, one in five students said that the service was not helpful at all. In fact, half of the students who made use of the services also looked for professional help through other means.
One student told us:
“When a lot of your probelms are occuring on campus, it’s hard to have your support there too. The wellbeing centre is right there in the middle of campus. Not only are you in the place that is causing you struggle, everyone can see you enter the building too. It’s also run like the rest of the uni. Applications, long waits and your grades being put first. I personally found it far better to seek help off campus and away from the whole environment” – Jake* 22.
Which does pose the question; are unis currently offering enough to tackle this problem that is undoubtedly growing?
Jodie (Student Minds Editor) recognises:
“A student’s mental wellbeing will directly impact on their performance academically, the friendships created and overall experience at the university. It is not simply in the best interests of the university to invest time and money into the wellbeing of their students (and staff), but in fact, it is their duty to do so.
The prevalence of mental health difficulties at university is like no other and it is time that it was acknowledged as a serious issue rather than accepted as ‘part of the university experience’ and fuelling a culture of acceptance.”
It’s impossible to deny that it’s not a question of should uni’s be making more of an effort to look after student wellbeing, but instead, how?
We asked Bournemouth Universities welfare officer, Charlie Souter, what her uni was doing to make a difference:
“Something we have created in the Students’ Union at Bournemouth University is The Mental Health Zone, which is student-led initiative which aims to raise awareness of, and reduce the stigma around mental health, as well as promoting positive wellbeing. They plan to do this through a variety of ways including peer support, awareness campaigns and events and workshops around spotting signs of ill mental health in your friends and then how to support and signpost them to other services. We are hoping that this scheme can be rolled out to all universities to help raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and make it as normalised as physical health.”
Are students doing enough?
It turns out that the majority of students (84!) accept that mental illness is as serious as physical illness. And they are sympathetic of others too. 74% of students said they would show concern and be mindful of someone else’s troubles. Plus, 19% said they wouldn’t react as it wouldn’t change the way they viewed that person in any way. So, students are pretty on board with understanding, but are their actions matching up?
Lucy Miller (The National Student) explains that:
“Mental health can be extremely difficult to talk about, but this creates an opportunity for students to think outside the box in order to encourage people to broach these taboo topics. In our most recent magazine issue, we interviewed Maison de Choup, a clothing brand that was launched by university student George Hodgson. He suffers from anxiety himself and utilised his artistic flair to create everyday clothing with strong, positive messaging centred on overcoming mental health issues. He also donates 25% of proceeds from the Warrior Collection to YoungMinds.”
He’s certainly inspirational. But, not all students will have the time to put in so much work and that’s okay too. There are plenty of ways that students can make a difference to supporting mental health on campus without impacting their own studies.
What can you do?
Every single person can have an impact no matter how big or small. Whether it’s offering support, setting up a society or offering recommendations to universities every little step can make a huge difference.
Charlie Souter (Bournemouth University) advises that:
“friends can support each other by offering to do something they enjoy together, and by taking notice if they see someone’s behaviour starting to change and regularly asking them if they are alright by using open questions. There are lots of great resources online that students and staff can use to learn a bit more about wellbeing and mental health in general.”
Find some useful articles below:
- Five steps to mental wellbeing
- 10 things you need to know about mental health as advised by Student Minds
- 7 practical things you can do to keep track of your mental health
Want to make a difference to the mental wellbeing support on your campus? Apply to be a Ditch the Label university ambassador here: