Calls for more support for student mental health

NUS Depute leader Graeme Kirkpatrick says financial worries and lack of support can lead to drop-outs

Student leaders have joined psychiatrists in calling for more support for students with mental health problems.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said a recent survey indicated 4 per cent of university students are seen by counsellors each year for a wide range of emotional and psychological difficulties.

A report on student mental health published today by the organisation said universities needed to avoid cutting back on mental health services even as budgets are being streched.

The report, ‘Mental health of students in higher education,’ says the size of the student population has changed enormously over the last decade, and demand for counselling is rising.

It says students are struggling with rising debt and fewer employment opportunities, all of which may be impacting on their mental health and well-being.

Dr Leonard Fagin, consultant psychiatrist and a co-author of the report said: “There are concerns that universities are programming cuts that will affect provision of counselling and psychiatric services to students, preventing effective early intervention.

“Likewise, cuts to mental health services could also affect the provision of coordinated services to young people known to them who are attending higher educational institutions.”

Graeme Kirkpatrick, National Union of Students Scotland Depute President, said: “As this report correctly shows, student mental ill-health is a growing concern in Scotland. Too often financial worries and a lack of support services can mean students’ problems become overwhelming, potentially leading to drop out.

“A very difficult job market after graduation is also likely to weigh heavily on students as they study too.

“The Scottish Government proposed minimum £7,000 income will go some way in addressing the financial stresses for some students, but more needs to be done to ensure students get the wider support they need, especially at a time of cuts in colleges in particular.”