Universities have been in the news a lot lately. The right wing think tank, UK 2020, accused them of running a ‘cartel’ in a report aiming to cut student debt. And the vice-chancellor of Oxford University called politicians ‘dishonest’ and ‘tawdry’ for linking the high pay of university leaders to a rise in tuition fees. But the story which caught my attention was the huge increase in university students suffering from mental illness.
A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research looked at data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and what it discovered was alarming. The number of university students with a mental illness has increased by 500% over the last 10 years.
Here are some more of the study’s findings:
- One quarter of all students are either receiving counselling or on a waiting list to do so
- 94% of universities reported a rise in demand for counselling services over the last 5 years
- In 2015 there were 134 student suicides. In 2007 there were only 75
- A total of 1,180 students dropped out of university in 2015 due to mental illness. In 2012 the number was 562
- 2.5% of female and 1.4% of male students reported having a mental health condition. In 2010 the number for both genders was 0.5%
These figures are shocking but, as with all studies, they may not disclose the true picture. People are still reluctant to admit they have mental health issues so the actual amount of people suffering may be much higher.
So what has caused this sharp drop in students’ mental health? It seems there are two culprits. A higher proportion of school and college leavers are now entering university than ever before. That means that this once elite group now represents a wider swathe of society – rich and poor alike. It’s well known that a lack of finances has a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing.
The second reason is stress. The rise in tuition fees defended by Oxford’s vice-chancellor, together with our struggling economy and a lack of well-paid jobs, all cause anxiety for students. The pressure to get a top grade is higher than it has been for a long time.
Here at Education Quizzes we care about your children. That’s why we’ve created Parents 999 – the section of our site full of advice for parents. Though we can’t help your children once they’re at university, we can help you prepare them so they are better equipped to face the challenges ahead.