Student drop out rates soar due to mental illness.

By Shannon Lennox

According to an independent investigation by VICE there has been an 1000% increase in the number of students leaving university in the UK due to mental health issues.  The BBC also found that there has been a 68% increase of students seeking help for mental health issues in Scotland.

These figures raise the question as to why students feel that leaving education is their best option. Claire, a student from Edinburgh University told UWS news about her experience:

“I spoke to my personal tutor about leaving and she didn’t ask why or tell me about the sources the university had to offer to help students like me. She just told me to sign some papers. I was shocked that a university member of staff didn’t care whether they were losing good students. How many other students are they losing? Why don’t universities care about their students? I did eventually speak to the Edinburgh University Student Association and I got the help I need. I Just thought the academic staff would care more.”

Claire’s experience is, unfortunately, a common occurrence amongst students. Another student, Jen, told UWS news that she felt staff at her university “Weren’t bothered and they didn’t offer help” when she left.  Counsellor Sonia Scott from Byres Road Counselling Glasgow thinks the root of the problem is more complex:

“It has so much to do with the current society that we live in. Within today’s culture, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are increasing all the time.  I think the pressures that are put on people are increasing, whether that be in the workplace, or students in university. There’s a lot of unreasonable expectations. More and more competitive attitudes to succeeding and achieving.

“I think universities could do more to help students. The whole of society could. The government, large corporations etc. I think everyone could do more. I know most universities have student counsellors. I know that there’s usually long waiting lists. It’s quite underfunded within the universities as it is within the NHS.  Not a specific problem to universities, it is a much wider and complex problem.”

According to Sonia, the issue lies within the constructs of society itself. People are overworked and pressured. An underfunded, pressured NHS leads to underfunded university resources which ultimately leads to an epidemic of poor mental health in students. Despite this pressure on the NHS, those who work within universities can and should do more to help students and encourage them to use the help available.

Information on UWS counselling services can be found here. For those affected by the issues mentioned, help is also available at https://www.samh.org.uk

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