University - the best of times or the worst of times?
Over a quarter of students, 27% to be exact, have reported suffering with mental health problems. A YouGov survey has exposed the insidious nature of mental health problems among students, but what is the reason for this, and is there something we can do?
Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety have been cited as the main mental health problems among those surveyed. The consequences of suffering with these illnesses can be brutal to a student - a young person making their first foray into independent living. Those suffering with depression and anxiety often state they find it difficult to get out of bed and go about a regular day. The YouGov figures state that, of those who had suffered mental health problems, 47% found they had trouble completing some simple daily tasks, and 4% said they couldn't complete any simple tasks.
This can lead to issues with completing assignments on time and risking failing your degree, and also affects your living situation, often leading to severe levels of untidiness. A recent BBC blog showed a depression sufferer’s bedroom before and after they cleaned it, and they were celebrated online for this accomplishment because those who have suffered with depression know how big an achievement it was. However, for those who continue to feel unable to complete daily tasks, they can often come to think of themselves as failures.
Failure, stress and debt
The YouGov survey also stated that 77% of students had a 'fear of failure', with this fear encroaching on their daily life. Living with this fear of failure can be like walking around with a ball and chain. Dr Stroma Macfarlane, of Priory Wellbeing Centre Southampton, discusses the importance of a failure CV and the positives to be gained from failure. Embracing failure is an important element in how we grow as people and a young person's time at university is a particularly prime time to flourish.
There are a variety of stressors for university students, from the basics of assignments and fitting in with new social groups, leaving behind home comforts, managing your own finances, adjusting to independent living and the homesickness this can breed, and then the developing issues of the amount of debt accruing and securing employment after you have completed your degree (assuming you complete your degree).
A recent study by University of Southampton found that debt is strongly linked with mental health problems. University students completing their degree now often have upwards of £30,000 of debt and are unlikely to pay it off.
It is clear that young people have a lot to handle during their student years, and experience a lot of firsts, which is why protecting students' mental health is vital; universities have a responsibility to provide this. By offering on-site options and securing fast access to mental health treatment, they can begin tackling the growing problem amongst students. Priory's Wellbeing Centres also offer rapid access to effective treatment for a range of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, and are conveniently placed in city centres where students can easily reach them.
In creating simple, fast and effective pathways to mental health treatment and therapy, but also ensuring that students are aware of how to seek help, we can combat the rising problem amongst the student population. In 2014, figures showed suicides amongst students had reached a 10-year high. It's time to tackle the issues among a vulnerable section of our society.