Student mental health: UUK asks government to step in

Almost two-thirds of students have experienced a decline in their mental health this academic year, according to new ONS data

Universities UK (UUK) has called on the government to step in, as new data suggests student mental health is in crisis.

University mental health teams, UUK says, are “plugging the gaps” in NHS services and a “substantive focus” on student mental health must now be a priority for ministers.

Experimental data published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that:

  • Over a quarter (26%) of students reported feeling lonely often or always, compared with 8% of the adult population in Great Britain over a similar period.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of students indicated that their well-being and mental health had worsened since the start of the autumn term 2020; this has remained stable since January 2021.
  • Average life satisfaction scores for students have improved following a dip in January 2021 (8 to 18 January 2021) from 4.8 to 5.1 out of 10; this remains statistically significantly lower than the average life satisfaction scores for the adult population in Great Britain at 6.4 over a similar period.

 

 

“Universities have worked extremely hard to transform support services to meet the challenges of the pandemic, moving counselling and advice online, building digital communities and developing new services to meet new needs,” said Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK.

“However we are continuing to see significant increases in demand for university-funded support services, which were already plugging the gaps resulting from the lack of NHS resources and funding.

“The differing level of mental health support for students depending on their location remains a concern. We need a substantive focus on students’ mental health and wellbeing from the government, alongside student-facing NHS services to match the commitment made in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

The Department for Health and Social Care, the Department for Education and NHS England should work closely with universities to set out and fund the transformation of NHS services to meet the needs of the growing and diverse student population – Universities UK

Universities UK is calling on the government to take the following actions:

  • The immediate provision of targeted funding for university wellbeing and mental health services, to increase staff capacity and improve support, ensuring greater number of students can access services at a faster pace.
  • Implementing the commitment to student mental health set out in the NHS Long Term Plan by commissioning student-facing NHS services. “Half of young adults enter higher education,” says UUK. “They need dedicated services, coordinating university support with primary care, psychological therapies and specialist services. The Department for Health and Social Care, the Department for Education and NHS England should work closely with universities to set out and fund the transformation of NHS services to meet the needs of the growing and diverse student population.

 

The ONS survey, of 2,759 students, also examined living arrangements and travel:

  • An estimated 85% of students said that they were currently living at the same address as they were at the start of the autumn term 2020.
  • Of those students who have moved address since the start of the autumn term 2020, 43% are planning on returning to their original address before the end of the academic year and 55% are not planning on returning.
  • Of all students, 15% said that they expected to stay with people who are not part of their current household for a period of two weeks or more, over the next two months.

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