Female and LGBT students have been revealed as most likely to have a mental health condition, a YouGov survey has revealed. Surveying 1,000 students it suggested that 34 per cent of female students and 45 per cent of LGBT students in the UK are affected.
The study looked at the primary cause of stress among students, revealed that seven in ten said work from university was one of their main sources of stress. The second biggest stress was finding a job after university (39 percent), followed by their family at 35 percent. Jobs and relationships (23 percent) accounted for the majority of other sources of stress.
YouGov also suggest that overall 27 per cent of undergraduate students in the UK have a mental health problem, with only eight per cent of students saying that they do not know anyone who has a mental illness or condition.
SU Women’s Officer Abbie Mulcairn said that it was not a surprise to SU officers that women and LGBT students “who already bear the brunt of discrimination” are reporting higher levels of mental health problems than their male and non-LGBT peers.
She added, “You’d think given the statistics that UEA would have some kind of plan or strategy to prevent mental health problems and deal with the increase in counselling.
“The University has to recognise that these marginalised groups are facing extra pressures and needs develop strategies to address them.”
Mulcairn said there appears to be “no plan” to tackle the high numbers of students with mental health problems and stated the only plan regarding university mental health services that herself and fellow SU officers were aware of so far was a scheme “to reduce the number of sessions students with a counsellor can get.”
She concluded that students were tired of hearing that change in the former Dean of Students Office is on its way: “it’s time now the University stepped up and delivered.”
Speaking on behalf of the UEA Feminist Society, Shannon Wells said that YouGov’s research highlighted the importance of recognizing the relationship between gender and sexuality and “how students may suffer with mental health problems.”
“We have to acknowledge that these issues affect people across our campus to the detriment of their education, social life and general well being, and that we should try to support these communities as much as possible,” she continued.
It is hard to see what the picture is like at other UK universities in this area because of a lack of available data owing to the sensitive nature of the topic.
However, a recent report compiled for the University of York found that 80 per cent of UK universities identified a noticeable increase between 2014 and 2015 in complex student mental health crises that required external assistance.
Earlier this year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published figures on the total number of deaths by suicide for undergraduates in England and Wales in 2014. ONS report that student suicides reached their highest level in 2014 since they started to be recorded in 2007. 97 deaths were for male students and 33 were female.
Only one in five students have accessed their university’s mental health support services, according to YouGov. The research concludes that satisfaction for university mental health services is “relatively high,” with 30 per cent of students who have used a service describing it as “very helpful” and 45 per cent calling their experience “somewhat helpful.”
However, the research also reflects a wider concern that UK universities are failing mentally ill students and not providing adequate resources; 21 per cent of students said that the university service they had used was “not helpful at all.”
Commenting on the provisions made by universities for mentally unwell students, SU Students with Disabilities Officer Kate Snape said: “The tragedy is that whilst students are becoming more open to disclosure and seeking help, they are often still forgotten and ignored when they do.”
Of the students who used university mental health services YouGov said that a majority, 89 per cent, had used counselling services.
SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo said that the research by YouGov reflected a “student mental health crisis both around the UK and at UEA.” She described student mental health services to be “creaking at the seams.”
Swo said, “We should be pleased that efforts to remove the stigma around mental health have led to an increase in students seeking counselling, but instead of just throwing up new buildings, Universities like UEA need to invest some of the money they’ve raised in additional fees in expanded support services to cope with the demand.”
Joanne Bridgland President of UEA Nightline, a confidential listening and information service run by student volunteers, said “Many of the students who approach our service feel isolated coming to university and struggle with loneliness and this can sometimes lead to further issues regarding their mental health.”
The service runs from 8pm until 8am during term time and offers students the chance to talk about any topic through different means of communication such as calling, an online chat, and the opportunity to talk to a volunteer face-to-face at Block A, Suffolk Terrace.