Report highlights nationwide university mental health crisis

Content Warning: Suicide 

A report released this week from mental health campaigner Sir Norman Lamb highlighted the persisting problems with mental health services within UK universities. 

Statistics taken from a survey of 110 institutions unearthed disturbing figures concerning decreased funding and counselling provisions.

Sir Norman Lamb encourages universities to be held legally responsible for their student’s mental well-being. Describing university mental health service as an “unacceptable postcode lottery”, the MP claimed that psychological support for university students in the UK is at a crisis point. Data revealed that the majority of universities fail to record budget information and waiting times for their well-being services.

Lamb claims, “these figures are unacceptable. Clearly some students are being failed by their universities. The lack of appropriate mental health provisions at some universities is intolerable”. 

He also highlights, “Students ought to know that in return for their tuition fees, they will not only receive an education but that the institution will demonstrate a duty of care towards them.”

With the survey showing many universities refusing to increase funding for student psychological support and some cutting funding completely, Lamb responded: “what is worrying is that some universities have no handle on the scale of the problem”.  

Average recorded wait-time for student counselling revealed a 43.5 day expectancy, equating to approximately over half the standard length of a university term. 

Even more shockingly, 75 per cent of the 110 universities investigated were unable to evidence the further routes taken by students after having undergone counselling on campus. 

The report comes as an inquest began last week into the suicide of University of Liverpool student Ceara Thacker, following her severe mental health deterioration in May 2018. 

Thacker’s mother, Lorraine Dalton-Thacker, described the circumstances leading up to Ceara’s death as resulting from the fact that,“At every turn, she was failed” by her university health services. 

Sadly, this case is just one among many others who are overlooked in the severity of mental vulnerability. 

Universities such as Bristol, Kingston and Sussex invest more than £1 m a year on improving well-being services. Lamb applauded these strives, stating “when the prevalence of mental ill health among students is increasing, it is completely unacceptable that some universities are cutting funding. We should be seeing sustained increases”. 

In calling for an official charter “enshrined in legislation, which guarantees students rights to access mental health care and requires universities to take action on suicide prevention”, Sir Norman Lamb hopes to improve and sustain necessary provisions for students throughout the UK.  

The worrying state of affairs outlined by the survey begs the question of what our own university can do for us. In recent years the University of Edinburgh has been recipient of an onslaught of complaints pertaining to its lack of serious consideration for its student well-being and safety. 

Continued calls for improved mental health and counselling services is prominent at the University of Edinburgh, with many students continuing to voice concerns. Postgraduate student Lauren Ridgley claimed: “although there are leaflets signposted in the toilets and helplines advertised on the Students Association website, within the actual university it is not always easy to access someone face-to-face. It’s like we are given information but without the sufficient instructions to follow”. 

The persistent issue of mental health is gaining increasing prevalence on our university campuses today. This report only continues to highlight the need for institutional officials to adequately and responsibly equip students with sufficient support. 

Image: LWYang via Flickr

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