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The Rise of Mental Health Issues in Higher Education

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We often think of university and college life as the golden years of youth, but statistics emerging over the past few years have revealed a darker side to student life, and evidence has shown there is a growing mental health crisis on campuses worldwide.

In just the past 18 months, eight students from the UK’s prestigious Bristol University have taken their own lives, fuelling growing concern about student mental health globally, and calling into question the capacity of universities to provide adequate care and support for students suffering from mental health issues.

A recent study from Ulster University in Ireland found that more than half of students surveyed had suffered from mental health issues. These figures are in addition to a study from the Guardian in 2016, which indicated the number of students seeking help for mental health issues had skyrocketed by over 50% in the last five years. In the USA, campus counselling centres saw a 30 percent jump in the number of students seeking treatment or counselling for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

According to the experts, more than 75 percent of all mental health conditions begin before the age of 24, which makes support in those college and university years absolutely vital. But despite the cracks appearing in the system, workloads at universities and colleges are rising steadily, all while students are juggling their studies alongside a part-time job, an internship and the regular gamut of social and familial obligations.

Perfectionism can play a role in the problem too. Many students who were high achievers during their high school years are unable to maintain the same results at the tertiary level. The pressure to continue to excel can often become unbearable, after all nobody wants to fall from the top of the class to the bottom. Often these students have little experience with the sting of failure, and when they start to fall behind the anxiety and fear can overwhelm them as well as preventing them from speaking out or seeking help. One student who suffers from anxiety said that seeking the help of a writing service to complete their assignments was preferable to the thought of facing their professors or peers and admitting they needed additional help.

And then there is the financial stress, a recent comparison of studies from 2012 and 2015 found that more students were regularly going without necessities including medications and food. Is it a really a surprise that mental health issues are becoming more common amongst students in higher education?

The current generation of undergraduates are under greater pressure than any before thanks to an increasingly competitive job market, and increased costs to study. The current status-quo of lip service and ignoring the problem comes at the cost of young lives. If tertiary institutions want to stanch the increase in mental health issues amongst students they need to ensure they’re providing prompt access to qualified mental health professionals, and design effective interventions to bring campus communities together to battle the stigma surrounding mental health.

This article was written by the NUS community. If you would like to contribute your article, please get in touch.

1 Comment

  1. Striving for a perfectionism is already a problem which should be discussed with a psychologist.

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