Mental health is a serious problem, and is not something that can be ignored.
The number of people in the UK suffering from a mental health problem is on the rise. According to mental health charities, such as MIND, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
This statistic is only going to get worse unless something is done to help those in need. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Theresa May promised to tackle the “stigma” around mental health and the government pledged to ‘transform’ the way mental health problems are dealt with. In February last year, NHS England said an extra £1 billion a year should be invested in mental health services by 2021. Despite this, spending budgets on mental health services are continuing to be cut. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Sefton, Scarborough, the Isle of Wight, St Helens and Walsall are set to reduce spending on mental health by £4.5m, leaving very little help available to those who may need it.
The problem isn’t just among the general population, and it’s a particularly rife problem among students at university. With university funding repeatedly being cut, I constantly ask myself this question: “How on earth are mental health problems going to get any better?”
This morning I read an article in The Guardian by Sarah Marsh, reporting that suicide rates at UK universities is at ‘record level’, and the number of students disclosing a mental health problem in their first year has risen fivefold in 10 years. I have pasted the article below for anyone who may be interested. This is an issue close to my heart and home, and there should be more awareness on the matter.
A growing number of undergraduates are reporting mental health problems, according to a report that shows a record number of students have killed themselves in recent years.
The scale of the mental health crisis at UK universities is revealed in a study by the IPPR thinktank. It shows that the number of students who disclosed a mental health problem in their first year rose fivefold to reach 15,395 in a decade.
Analysts also found that a record 134 students killed themselves in 2015. In the same year a record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university. Experts put the rise down to growing pressure on students who leave university with huge debt, as well as increased awareness – meaning more people are reporting problems.
Mark Salter, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We know that the government needs to do much more to stop people reaching the level of desperation where they take their own lives. Suicide is preventable … without proper resourcing and funding, we will not reduce suicide in England,” he said.
The report called for universities to ensure that their counselling services had close links with local GPs and mental health services.
Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said the findings were “shocking” and should act as a “massive wake-up call to universities to take this area much more seriously”.
He said: “Some vice-chancellors still think [mental health care] is not the business of universities and it’s just about development of the mind, but developing minds means nothing unless you also help people learn how to become settled down and ready to learn.”
The Labour MP Luciana Berger said the research uncovered worrying levels of mental ill-health: “The wellbeing of students cannot be an afterthought. The government and universities must take on board the recommendations and create the conditions in which our next generation can get help and flourish.”
New analysis found female first-year students were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to disclose a mental health condition in 2015-16, whereas four years previously both were equally likely.
Ruth Caleb, wellbeing consultant at Brunel University, said the rise could be down to the fact that more students now came to university already anxious and worried about the degree they would get, as well as the debt they would be saddled with as their working lives began.
“The rise is due to a combination of more awareness of mental health issues, a lowering of the taboo previously attached to mental health services and a greater sense of anxiety about the future. Young men are still a concern to us as they tend not to present as much to counselling and wellbeing services,” she said.
The report also highlighted soaring demand on services. Through a survey of 58 UK higher education providers, it found 94% had experienced an increase in demand for counselling services over the past five years, while 61% had seen demand jump by more than a quarter.
The proportion of students using, or waiting to use, counselling services was as high as 26% at some universities.
The report recommends that the Department of Health introduce a new NHS Student Health Fund, with local partnerships of health and education providers bidding to deliver innovative models of integrated care to students.
It also called for a new student premium to top up the funding of GP practices with high proportions of patients who are students, as these practices receive less funding per head.
Thorley said: “As a first step, the university sector should make a firm commitment to drive up quality and increase access to support services. Along with strengthened NHS provision and funding, this will help ensure that no student is held back by their mental health.
A Department for Education spokesperson said the government had worked with Universities UK to improve mental health support. “We expect all universities to take the wellbeing of their students seriously and ensure that they are providing them with the right support … Later this year the government will also publish a green paper with proposals to improve mental health services,” they said.