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Prozac Nation
Still from Prozac Nation (2001)

Student mental health issues are on the rise, says report

Universities have reported a ‘noticeable increase’ in self-harm and suicide attempts

Mental health issues among UK university students have been increasing – and are reportedly “continuing to rise”.

According to a new study, 80 per cent of higher education institutions have seen a “noticeable increase” in complex mental health problems between 2014 and 2015. This includes a rise in activity that requires academic staff to seek external help, such as self-harm or suicide attempts.

The University Of York report, which was conducted by Koen Lamberts, drew on data collected by AMOSSHE (the Association Representing University Student Services). It took into consideration mental health conditions at the time of admission, student wellbeing surveys, suicide data and sector-wide evidence from student support services. 

“Students in York - like elsewhere in the country - increasingly need support with their mental health,” said Ben Leatham, president of York University Students’ Union and one of the report’s authors. “University of York management has listened to the concerns raised by students and are taking action to try and tackle the challenge. I commend them for that.”

The report also notes that NHS services are “regularly failing” to meet the needs of the country’s most vulnerable. “Mental health services are struggling from the combined impact of rising demand and chronic underinvestment,” the study claims. “Within the higher education sector, evidence from student services leaders points to serious gaps in mental health provision, with delayed and inappropriate NHS support for students in need of care.”

In a statement issued earlier this year, NUS Vice President for Welfare Shelly Asquith expressed that the rise in mental health issues may be related to mounting financial pressures – a factor that’s not been helped by the government’s trebling of tuition fees, and the recent abolition of student grants.

“The evidence is clear, the marketisation of education is having a huge impact on students' mental health,” she said. “The value of education has moved away from societal value to 'value for money' and the emphasis on students competing against each other is causing isolation, stress, and anxiety. It has also forced institutions to compete aggressively against each other and put more money into advertising initiatives than student support services.”