Recent figures have shown that the number of university students approaching universities for counselling is rising.
The number of pupils contacting mental health services at Canterbury Christ Church University is was 640 during 2015/16 academic year.
This shows an increase of 89% since the academic year of 2012/13.
Krum Tashev, President of CCCU’s Student Union says that there needs to be a change in culture around mental health at universities.
“It’s important to me that tackling this issue is part of the wider union strategy and tackling the stigma. We want to create a sense of a Christ Church Community, that we support each other, that we are here for each other, and that both the university and union will support the students in any problems they have.”
Rachel O’Brien, Disabled Students Officer at the National Union of Students says that there is a stigma all over the country.
“It’s a phenomenon going on all over the country. It’s documented that students have very high rates of poor mental health and a lot of this is linked to debt and costs around housing. A lot of us when we leave university leave with £50,000 worth of debt and that weighs very heavily on people. Universities definitely have a role to play in relieving and reducing the amount of mental distress among students.”
Earlier this year, the UN released a report in which it found that since 2010, the UK has committed “grave and systemic violations of the rights of disabled people”, including those with mental health problems. Prime Minister Theresa May announced had previously announced that the UK would be spending £15 million on a plan to train one million in basic mental health first aid skills.
O’Brien praised the introduction of the programme but doesn’t think it goes far enough.
“This is definitely not enough. Mental health first aid is nice but it’s not a solution. Mental health first aid is a very immediate situation, like someone having a panic attack where this is how you deal with it and where you signpost them to, but if the services don’t exist for you to signpost them to, actually mental health first aid is not going to do a lot of good.”
Tashev was also critical of the programme.
“Other questions are what else are they going to be doing because where are they going to be trained? How are they going to be trained? Are they going to be in the public sector?
“It’s really easy to throw this number out and say this is how we support people, but actually this is not giving answers.”