As the inevitable stress over exams, dissertations and deciding which pub garden to spend the weather in looms over, mental health has never been far away from a typical student’s agenda. However, with first year students being five times more likely to report a mental health issue than ten years ago and with conditions at universities never getting easier, the issue can no longer be treated as a mere “side effect” of university life.
Currently, the University of Kent’s “Wellbeing Service” is the place of contact for those wishing to seek help for mental health. Located in both Canterbury and Medway, they have a team dedicated and trained to talking about matters that student’s may feel they cannot talk about with close friends or family. Running weekdays between 9-5, they also run crisis drop in sessions, where those in need of “urgent support” can attend.
Despite the University’s attempts to adapt to the challenge of combating mental health, these challenges have been emphasized with the recent strike action leaving many feeling that they have been let down, in a time they felt they needed help the most. One anonymous source reported that they had “called in to their voicemail because they weren’t in…because a friend of mine was expressing suicidal thoughts and today, about two months on, I’ve still not heard back from them.”
Also significant is the rise of female first-year students disclosing a mental health condition, from 0.5% in 2009/10 to 2.5% in 2016/17, whereas the male equivalent was lower at 1.4%, and also being at the same level as females in 2009/10. Undergraduates are also more likely to report a mental health condition than postgraduates, 2.2% in comparison to 1.4%, and perhaps most disturbingly under half of all students who report a mental health condition in the study, chose not to disclose it to their institution.
Undoubtedly a worrying trend, UKC is not the only institution feeling under pressure over the issue of mental health. Last year, Kent’s Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, highlighted the consequences of mental health in the area, with 65 adults being placed in police cells in 2016 whilst having a mental breakdown, for their supposed safety.
Whilst Scott attempts to abolish the practice, the attitude of treating and preventing mental health issues must more prominently change. News that student loans are increasing with higher interest rates may not be the cause of the situation but are undoubtedly factors that can only deteriorate a student’s mental health throughout their degree and further career.
As a result, mental health is perhaps the most challenging aspect to university life, and it remains to be seen if universities can meet the increasing demand for mental health services in the UK. However, it is a challenge that can be overcome, and know that there is always someone to talk to.
If you are feeling that your mental health is currently being impacted and you’re currently studying at university, you can contact UKC’s Wellbeing Service through:
Telephone: 01227 826573 (Canterbury) 01634 202984 (Medway)
Email contact form: https://www.kent.ac.uk/studentsupport/wellbeing/contact.html
Canterbury: Student & Wellbeing Reception, H Block of Keynes College
Medway: Room G0-05, Gillingham Building