According to a recent survey by the National Union of Students (NUS), 78% of college students have said that they have experienced mental health issues within the past year. Additionally, 33% of the respondents admitted that they have had thoughts of suicide. This was even more prevalent among those who did not identify as heterosexual, as 55% of the individuals who did not declare themselves to be heterosexual confessed that they have had suicidal thoughts.
The NUS survey questioned nearly 1,100 students in further and higher education during the months of November and December. The survey was conducted on the behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Students.
A total of 54% of the respondents who said that they have experienced mental health issues said that they have not attempted to obtain support for their problems. Meanwhile, 33% of all respondents said that they would not know where to get mental health support at their college or university. Another 40% said that they would be nervous about receiving mental health support from their academic institution.
Second year student at the University of Manchester Aoife Inman said, “I think mental health issues are extremely common among students but it’s something not many people want to acknowledge or accept that they are suffering from. University was pitched to me as ‘the best years of your life’, and there is definitely an anxiety among young people to live up to that expectation. For those of us who struggle with mental illness at university you can feel constant disappointment for not fitting the student stereotype.”
Officer of disabled students for NUS Maddy Kirkman added, “These findings are deeply concerning, and reaffirm the stark challenges that persist around providing effective support to students in universities and colleges. Alongside the impact of funding cuts to student support, including maintenance grants and the disabled students’ allowance, this shows a worrying lack of concern for students living with mental health issues.”
British Parliament Member for Sheffield Central Paul Blomfield said, “Our colleges and universities should be places of educational and personal development, where students feel supported. But these findings show us that significant numbers of students are suffering with mental health problems, many of them silently. These survey results are a wake-up call to all of us concerned with student welfare. MPs and peers from across the political spectrum will come together this afternoon to discuss what can be done.”
The British Parliament is set to discuss the issue of student mental health later today. The discussion will be coordinated by the APPG on students, and it will examine issues that have been brought to light through research. The goal of this discussion will be to determine what universities and colleges can do to better respond to the mental health needs of students.