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The Rise in Student Mental Illness

The university group Dig-in, Mental health UK and The Insight Network have completed and released their report; the largest ever conducted in the UK, regarding mental health amongst students in universities and the results are shocking. 37,654 students over 140 universities were interviewed about regarding the state of their mental health by a team of therapists and psychiatrists. This would be the largest report of its kind in the UK to date. Out of those who were interviewed, it was found that around 42% of students said that they felt worried often or all the time and 33% found they often felt lonely.

Dig-in and The Insight Network annually release reports of this nature to gage the current levels of mental issues amongst UK university students.This comes after the Office of National Statistics released figures that show a gradual increase in student suicides since 2013.

Third year student at Canterbury Christ Church University, Danielle Lauren, explained that her anxiety during her time at the university was brought on mostly to manage the work load that she was given and the pressures that accompany it, a problem that can effect a lot of students. She explains that she has found that third years tend to get the most stressed as graduation looms over their head, this is corroborated widely in the report in the report.

Whilst different students experience different issues during their time in higher education that can lead to mental health issues, a large amount of those affected experience issues and pressures associated with the change to larger work loads and the struggle to maintain a social life.

Canterbury Christ Church University does offer mental health services for its students, and referrals to its mental health and wellbeing team. This can be contacted by calling 01227 923056 or by emailing Drop in sessions are also available and the chaplaincy also helps for students who are of need. The University of Kent also offers these services with student appointments being available by walk in or by applying on the university's website at:

Both universities also encourage students to contact lecturers with any problems they may have.

The report alluded to the fact that a large amount of the students that were interviewed regarding their mental health were found to have not approached anybody, even family members about their issues, which meant that they were suffering alone, further complicating the issue.
Chris Platt, founder of Dig-In (founded in 2014), commented in the report by saying: "Universities are under huge amounts of pressure having to both understand and provide support for a vast range of student needs. Indeed, they have huge responsibility to both provide support for each of these issues and also drive engagement with them."

Dig-In is trying new methods all the time in order to make new or returning students feel more welcome, for example, they leave welcome packages in those living in student accommodation which contain a series of helpful goods. They are teamed with the department of education in order to research and monitor student sexual health, harassment and sexual health.

The NHS encourages students to seek help if they are feeling the following symptoms as they could be a sign of depression:

• Feeling low.
• Feeling anxious or agitated more than usual.
• Losing interest in life.
• Losing motivation in activities you used to take joy in.

These symptoms can also lead to:

• Drastically putting on or losing weight.
• Student not attending lectures.
• Student not meeting deadlines.
• Losing interest in self look or hygiene.
• Lead to the student becoming withdrawn and isolated.
• Lead to sleeping problems.

Recently, the department of education working with education secretary Damien Hinds, introduced a new task force named the Education Transitions Network to try and combat mental health across universities. This task force would help tackle four main issues that have been mentioned in the Dig-In report:

• Independent living- They will be tackling student’s anxieties of living away from home and also the drug and alcohol abuse that could be involved in such an environment.

• Independent Learning – They will help students keep focused on they work and in turn manage increasingly larger workloads throughout their academic years.

• Healthy Relationships – They will make sure that people are forming healthy friendships and are not at risk of isolation or bullying. This will also apply for relationships in an effort to decrease abuse.

• Wellbeing – They will try and help tackle the issue of loneliness that was a significant part of the report, thereby trying to introduce those who are isolated to social gatherings and the ability to create new acquaintances.

This task force will also target students at college or in sixth form to help them before they make the large transition to university, in order to target any worries or issues they might have before they change their environment. If these symptoms are left untreated, especially in the mind of a young person, it can have devastating and long-lasting effects. Disturbingly the Mental Health Foundation discovered that those who do not disclose their feelings of anxiety, loneliness or depression are more likely to be predisposed to the idea of suicide. This comes after the Office of National Statistics released figures that show a disturbing gradual annual increase in student suicides since 2013.

The university group, Student Minds, identified the 10 grand challenges out of a possible 93 proposed challenges, that face students who are suffering an undiagnosed mental illness in university or college:

1. Fear of being judged.

2. Stress.

3. Finding the confidence to tell others that you are experiencing mental health issues or are struggling.

4. Mental health problems are a source of weakness.

5. Loneliness.

6. Finding the confidence to ask for help.

7. Slow and difficult process of referring students to the proper mental health support services.

8. Poor general understanding of mental health problems.

9. Mental health issues have a substantive effect on one’s ability to concentrate and therefore find the time to seek help.

10. There is a general reluctance to disclose one’s mental health problems due to a multitude of stigmas.