We Need To Talk About…Student Mental Health

Holly Smith·24 August 2016·4 min read
We Need To Talk About…Student Mental Health

University is a minefield. It’s demanding, stressful, and at times, confusing. Some thrive, while others silently buckle under the pressure.  Today, the latter is becoming all too common. It’s time to stop ignoring it and talk about student mental health. Now.

According to a recent YouGov survey, one in every four students admits to having a mental health problem. The most prevalent of issues are anxiety and depression, of which contribute to almost 80% of all student problems. The next biggest concern are eating disorders.

I for one can vouch for the harshness and toughness of university life. You’ve moved away from home, you’re living with a set of new people, and you’ve got to learn how to fend for yourself.  Along with that, you have to juggle essay deadlines, reading, friendships, and finances.

While you would imagine that the first few weeks would be the biggest catalyst, it could just as easily be the weeks and years after when the strain is really felt.

“We know that as the novelty of being away from home wears off, it’s usually the second term where problems begin to manifest,” explains Mary George of eating- disorder charity Beat in Cosmopolitan.

student mental health

Financial difficulties are a big problem

A student, whose depression lead him to dropping out of university, told The Independent that “Having financial difficulties increased day-to-day stress levels and usually something had to give – it was usually my academic studies.”

In fact, The University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust conducted a study which showed that symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened in those who struggle to pay the bills. Those who were more stressed about graduate debt had higher levels of stress and depression.

Female students are the most affected, with 33% suffering from some form of mental illness. More than half of students even know between 1 and 5 people who suffer from mental health conditions. It’s definitely not uncommon. And yet, why is it not more spoken about?

Is it the awkwardness, the unfamiliarity or just the scariness of what it could mean?

An anonymous student talking to the Guardian said, “As a fresher you are constantly reminded that this is supposed to be the ‘time of your life’. When it feels like the worst time of your life you feel both a sense of guilt and a pressure to keep these negative thoughts to yourself.”

Men do seem to cope slightly better than women, with only 19% saying they suffer from a mental illness, however, they are three times as likely to commit suicide.

There’s also a difference depending on the university you’re at. According to a study by The Tab, 51% of students at UEA answered saying that they suffered from depression, as opposed to Northumbria which recorded only 30%.

Mental health is a problem. Especially when it goes unnoticed. Universities up and down the country are doing as much as they can, but the numbers are still ever increasing. Higher living costs, the stresses of graduating and the amount of pressure that’s financially burdening students seem to be the main factors.

It’s time to stop overlooking it and understand the truth. 25% of students have a mental health illness.

It’s not something that can be ignored.

Student mental health

Know the signs: Know when to help a friend

  • Feeling sad and irritable over a prolonged time
  • Feelings of extreme highs and extreme lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Substance abuse
  • Feeling guilty or worthless