Like many, if not all universities across the UK, Edinburgh is facing a campus crisis. The cry for better mental health services is louder than ever, as the number of students struggling with mental illness continues to rise. While it is certainly a positive thing in that the stigma around mental illness is slowly diminishing, the result is a growing demand for adequate mental health services – to which the University of Edinburgh has yet to comply.
While counselling services are available at the University, waiting lists can be months long, which, considering the average amongst universities is 15 days, is simply not good enough. The undeniable truth about mental illness is that there is no quick-fix solution: the time devoted to help is arguably more vital than the help itself, so the four sessions that Edinburgh offers is a far from satisfactory solution.
As a result, the low student satisfaction at Edinburgh is unsurprising as more and more feel that their wellbeing is overlooked. To put things into perspective, the salary of a university vice-chancellor can be upwards of £200,000, costing more than some universities’ entire counselling service.
Meanwhile, the University of Sussex is a shining beacon of an example, with a £456,000 counselling services budget. It boasts a high 4.05/5 student satisfaction rating, of which the same cannot be said for Edinburgh.
As if university life is not pressing enough, with the stress of deadlines, social pressures and a general expectation to always be your best self, struggling to get sufficient help when needed should never be an added worry.
For many, it is incredibly difficult to speak up and reach out to someone about suffering with a mental illness in the first place, thus we cannot allow the University to make this task even harder. One would presume that an institution such as Edinburgh should not be denying their students sufficient help and yet it is the hard truth that it is. This has to change, and fast.
Perhaps the University is failing to recognise the broad spectrum of mental illnesses, thus missing the urgency of a better system to provide for them. Anxiety, for instance, is something with which many students struggle. Whether it be with regards to social situations or academic expectations, it can have a dangerous effect not only on a student’s performance but their physical health too. With a poor pastoral service not offering obvious places to turn, students are more likely to pass off a panic attack as ‘having a bad day’ rather than what can be a serious illness with the power to shape your quality of life.
Rightly or wrongly, students are consumers, committing their adulthood to paying off debts for a time promised to be the best years of their life. Their money should be used to improve the experience of the ‘product’.
Edinburgh, along with every other university, has a responsibility to give students the best chance to thrive as healthy and happy individuals; we must push for a strong reformation of the current system. It is not only the change that we need, but that we deserve.
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