University is recognised as a time for many individuals to challenge themselves intellectually, make new connections, and for some the opportunity to discover their own independence in a new city.
Many graduates will comment on their university days being some of the best times they’ve had, rewarding yourself after long hours in the library completing assessments with the unforgettable nights out and post dancing takeaway choices (which I’m sure there’s some we’d all rather forget). Although university is usually looked back on with fondness – it is worth noting that for many graduates, and current students, it can also be associated with a mental health battle.
Nicola Dandridge, the head of the Office for Students, noted on the 15th of July 2021 that more than half of UK university and college students felt their mental wellbeing was not being supported enough this last academic year. Albeit, the last academic year was increasingly difficult due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, surely that provides even more of a reason to ensure that students feel that their mental health is a priority in such unprecedented times that caused a range of varying anxieties.
Like in the workplace, within education it appears that mental wellbeing is something that is not considered a crucial component to student success. The Tab noted how not only do some universities not offer enough services to their students to support with their mental health. In fact, some UK universities have cut back on the size of their wellbeing teams even though there is an obvious demand and this is clearly supported through the government announced this year they were giving £50 million to aid universities in supporting students.
Furthermore, another issue that is something that needs serious attention is waiting lists for students to receive counselling appointments with appropriate wellbeing teams within the university. Sadly, waiting lists amongst the NHS are some of the longest they have been, hence the requirement to implement a new 5 waiting time guarantee regime for mental health services. Yet, for students, who are arguably increasingly vulnerable, individuals who might be living away from home for the first time and feeling swamped under their workload, they may feel desperate for help. Kings College London is considered one of the most prestigious and successful universities, ranked 35th in the World, however students have commented on how the minimal waiting time for an initial appointment with the mental health support team is 1 month.
Some graduates have commented that upon leaving university, they are failed by not receiving the support to manage their mental health, with reference to struggling with depression and anxiety and not knowing how they should cope with it. These individuals are being failed, they are not just a statistic to make the universities look impressive, they are real people that should be offered appropriate support. Universities need to do more to help their current and previous students, it should not just be about achieving a degree, but developing as an individual and feeling in a safe mindset when doing so.
Speak out to your university if they aren’t doing enough, speak to your personal tutor, speak to a member of staff that you trust. Students deserve to be listened to and receive the support they require. Additionally, here at Unmasked, we offer our free peer support hubs to any individual age 16+ as a safe space to come and talk.
We are currently trying to establish a team of student ambassadors across the UK to host our peer support hubs in as many universities as possible – if you would like to get involved please drop me an email” firstname.lastname@example.org.