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New figures highlight worrying state of Scottish Student Mental Health

Monday 16-05-2016 - 11:00

 

Monday 16th May

 

New figures highlight worrying state of Scottish Student Mental Health

  • Figures show a 47% increase in students trying to access mental health support services
  • University and College services are “struggling to meet this demand”
  • NUS Scotland calls on politicians to put manifesto pledges on mental health into action
  • Figures come during Mental Health Awareness Week, as a new ‘Think Positive’ website providing support materials and information for students is launched

 

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, NUS Scotland has obtained figures highlighting a worrying increase in the number of students accessing mental health services in universities and colleges – while institutions struggle to meet demand. The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request to Scotland’s colleges and universities on the mental health services they provide and the number of students accessing them.

 

Key findings included:

 

  • A 47% increase in students requesting access to mental health support services, amongst 12 institutions holding data on the 4 years 2011/12 to 2014/15 (the last full academic year), with some institutions seeing up to 70% rise in students enquiring about accessing services.
  • A 37% increase in students going on to receive counselling services, amongst 17 institutions holding data on the 4 years 2011/12 to 2014/15 (the last full academic year), leaving a shortfall in students potentially not receiving any support
  • More than 10% of students who enquired about accessing mental health support services last academic year did not go on to receive support
  • The situation is more stark in colleges, with only five of Scotland’s colleges having full-time counsellors, and the remainder relying on external referrals or part-time and ad-hoc services
  • A 21% increase in the number of counselling staff at Scottish universities and colleges in the 4 years 2011/12 to 2014/15
  • A 38% increase in national spending on counselling in the 4 years 2011/12 to 2014/15, with colleges and universities now spending over £2.8 million on counselling services.

 

These figures follow a UK wide survey (1), which found that 38% of Scottish students feel like their mental health has been affected by financial concerns. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, NUS Scotland’s ‘Think Positive’ campaign is launching a new website (2) offering resources and support for students to better manage their mental health while studying.

 

Commenting, NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan said:

“It’s incredibly worrying to see such a dramatic rise in students reporting mental ill health, and while we’ve seen institutions doing all they can to improve the support they offer students, vital services are still struggling to meet this demand. However, it will come as little surprise to those who’ve experienced the additional stresses that we know impact students’ mental wellbeing, like finances, living arrangements, and academic pressures.

 

“On-campus counselling services can have a hugely positive impact on student health, and are often the difference between a student thriving in education or dropping out altogether.  Students also tend to have high satisfaction rates with university or college services once they find and access them. But the problem remains that many students don’t - or even can’t - access these services, and as these new figures show, there’s a very real risk that without adequate funding and prioritisation they’re going to fall even further behind.

 

“This absolutely should not take away from the hard work that we know university and college staff do, as they often go above and beyond to help students in need. Projects like Think Positive also provide great resources and information related to student mental health. Universities and colleges provide a range of services and activities that support students with mental ill health while promoting positive mental wellbeing to the wider student population. The key, however, is ensuring that high quality, coordinated provision exists right across Scotland, both in our institutions and our communities.

 

“During the Scottish election campaign, one of NUS Scotland’s key policy asks was improved and more coordinated mental health provision for students and young people. We were delighted to see every party commit to this in some shape or form, but now we need to make it a reality. We cannot let the progress we’ve made in mental health support and awareness go to waste, and there must now be a real concerted effort to ensure that universities and colleges have the necessary funding to help every student access the support services they need. We simply cannot stand by while students are unable to access the support they so desperately need to help them achieve their full potential.”

…ends

 

Notes:

  1. For statistics on the impact of finances on student mental health, visit http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/finances/students-concern-over-finances-is-affecting-their-mental-health-says-poll-a7012886.html
  2. Think Positive is a Scottish Government funded programme at NUS Scotland, which aims to improve student mental wellbeing and tackle the stigma attached to mental ill health. Their new website, containing information and resources, is available at: www.thinkpositive.scot
  3. The statistics obtained through the FOI are below:

 

Statistics

Budget for counselling (across 11 universities and 3 colleges holding data)

 

2011/12

2014/15

% change

Universities

2,047,712.00

2,827,452.10

38.08

Colleges

4,851.60

7,094.10

46.22

National

2,052,563.60

2,834,546.20

38.10

       

Number of full time counsellors (across 14 universities and 12 colleges holding data)

 

2011/12

2014/15

% change

Universities

37.92

45.95

21.18

Colleges

4.80

7.40

54.17

National

42.72

53.35

24.88

 

Average number of students enquiring about support services (12 institutions holding data)

 

2011/12

2014/15

% change

Universities

360.00

530.71

47.42

Colleges

35.80

52.80

47.49

National

224.92

331.58

47.42

 

Average number of students going on to receive support

 

2011/12

2014/15

% change

Universities

469.58

593.51

26.39

Colleges

31.80

44.00

38.36

National

340.82

466.65

36.92

 

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NUS Scotland

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