Wellbeing At University: Why Support Is A Priority
Headlines about the student mental health crisis and university suicides are not uncommon, and recent reports are worrying. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research revealed that five times as many university students are reporting mental health issues than a decade ago, while the number of student suicides has risen from 75 in 2007 to 134 in 2015. This news can be distressing for parents sending their kids off to university for the first time.
According to Poppy Brown, a psychology PhD student who wrote a report on improving student mental health for the Higher Education Policy Institute while studying for her undergraduate degree, the increasing stress and pressure associated with university is a major factor in the rise of mental health problems among students. She notes that now, going to university is not considered an achievement in itself, but rather requires a 2:1, and at top universities, even a first-class degree. You also have to get a job immediately after you graduate to pay off your debt.
However, while it is true that mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are on the rise among university students, concerned parents should not believe everything they read in the media. Graduates often report better mental health than their peers who did not attend university. Parents can learn about mental health issues and available resources to help their children in case the need arises.
At university, students have access to a variety of mental health provision that can help ease concerns. Most universities offer counselling services, alongside mental health and wellbeing advisers who specialize in helping students transition from school to university life. Additionally, students’ unions provide life advice on accommodation, cooking, and university facilities.
Moving from school to university can make it challenging to look after general wellbeing, such as sleeping well, moderating alcohol use, and eating healthily. The shift in academic expectations and workload can also be particularly stressful. Students’ main concerns tend to be about fitting in and their academic performance. Most universities offer mentoring schemes to help them navigate these challenges.
For students moving to a new location to attend university who have pre-existing mental health issues, the transition from child and adolescent services in their hometown to adult services in their new location can be daunting. Charities such as Student Minds recommend informing their home practice about their move in advance and ensuring they have enough medication for the transition period.
To ease parents’ minds, both students and parents can contact the university in advance to explore their support options, whether it is counselling or the National Health Service. Universities welcome contact from students and parents alike to ensure that students receive the help they need.
Inform your doctor
If you have an existing health issue, bring it to the attention of your mental health services provider well in advance of starting university. This will help ensure that your care remains consistent throughout the transition. Additionally, try scouting the available options in your new community. A good place to begin is by reaching out to your university or students’ union.
Speak with your tutor
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your coursework, don’t hesitate to speak to your tutor. Many tutors have mental health training, and can still help even if they don’t. They will certainly be your first point of contact to assist you with your concerns.
In the UK, Samaritans are available at 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the mental health charity, Mind, at 0300 123 3393.