Two in five UK students report poor mental health

Two fifths of university students in the UK have poor mental health or have felt suicidal, according to new research by Campus Living Villages

Campus Living Villages, the student accommodation provider, is calling on higher education institutions to work together and do more to ensure students experiencing poor mental health know that help is available.

Its new report, Mental Health at University: Bridging the Gap, reveals that 41% of students surveyed consider themselves to have poor mental health, and 39% have felt suicidal. This is almost double the national average and, if extrapolated for the UK student population, would mean that almost a million students may be struggling to cope.

However, around a quarter (28%) of students say they don’t know if their university provides information about stress and mental health, while almost half (48%) are unaware if their halls of residence provides this information.

Richard Gabelich, UK CEO at Campus Living Villages, commented: “Sadly, it’s no surprise to find that levels of poor mental health among students are far too high. But what’s perhaps most worrying is that so many of the students we surveyed don’t know if the places they live provide information on how to get help. Too many are likely to be suffering in silence if they or somebody they know is experiencing poor mental health.

“Universities and accommodation providers are in touch with young people during one of the most formative stages of their lives, which puts an onus on us all to understand the situation and help however we can. Institutions are already working hard to support students who may be struggling with poor mental health, but our research shows too many people are unaware of the services available. Universities and accommodation providers must work in partnership with charities and medical professionals to avoid duplication of support and identify the most effective initiatives to promote. And they need to communicate with students on the right channels with messages that cut through the noise.”

‘While our research cannot prove causation, it does suggest that online bullying and the pressure to conform to unrealistic and unattainable lifestyles may be contributing to students’ poor mental health.’

Brian Dow, Director of External Affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “There has been an increased focus on mental health in recent years, which is slowly reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, improving attitudes and increasing public understanding. However, it is clear that more work needs to be done, particularly among the student population. As people with mental illness become more willing to speak out, it is vital that they’re able to find someone who will listen. We urge universities and accommodation providers to consider what more they can do to support these vulnerable young people.”

The Campus Living Villages report also reveals a correlation between how students spend their social time and their mental health. More than half (52%) of students who spend more than four hours a day on social media consider themselves to have poor mental health, compared to 40% of those spending two-to-four hours a day, and just 34% of those spending less than two hours a day. Only a third (34%) of those who play sports or go to the gym in their spare time consider themselves to have poor mental health, six percentage points below the average.

Richard Gabelich added: “We wanted to explore how students’ lifestyles may be impacting their wellbeing. While our research cannot prove causation, it does suggest that online bullying and the pressure to conform to unrealistic and unattainable lifestyles may be contributing to students’ poor mental health, while physical activity could help improve it. This is a timely reminder of the impact time spent outside the lecture hall has on the student experience. With this in mind, universities and accommodation providers should consider how they can better promote a healthy student lifestyle, including encouraging more time away from phone and computer screens.”

To read the full report, please click here