In 2017, across all British Universities, one student committed suicide every four days. If a student was dying every four days from COVID-19, there would be widespread panic and action. Yet this obviously serious mental health crisis is not being addressed in our country’s universities.
Historically, universities have not been a place in which topics such as mental health have been discussed. However, in 2020, with mental health becoming increasingly concerning, this must be mirrored within the universities. Some action is being taken; universities in places such as Bristol, Kingston and Sussex spend over £1 million a year on wellbeing, whereas some Universities spend half that amount.
The exact cause for the mental health crisis among young people is as of yet undiscovered. However, the damaging factors of academic and financial pressure are likely to be having a detrimental impact on young people. Whatever the reason may be, it is vital this issue is tackled. One of the concerns is the lack of resources; studies have estimated that the average wait time to deal with a serious mental health issue was forty-three days.
So, what can be done? To start, Universities need to rethink their spending. It is clear that funding must be redistributed to tackle this problem. For example, trips could be cut down, money could be taken from refurbishing buildings that don’t need it.
Secondly, government investment is necessary given the limited resources of many universities. The government so far has invested in ten universities in the country. As there are one hundred and six in the UK, there is a large amount of work that must be done.
Additionally, students should not have to wait for over a week for an appointment. There should be suicide helplines as well as tutors being trained to spot a struggling student. Many people would find it far too overwhelming to seek help themselves. If our tutors were trained, this may eliminate feelings of helplessness.
An additional idea could be when students join the university, they must attend compulsory lectures on advice to support their fellow students. Entering into university is a daunting experience for anyone and so having an understanding of how to support their peers could be invaluable.
Other difficult times are in January and April when students are preparing to sit exams. Bristol conducted a study of fourteen students who committed suicide and found half of them did it in this time period partly due to exam stress. If students find it too stressful to take exams, then there should always be an alternative exam arrangement.
Also, since the level of anxiety issues have soared, perhaps the way teaching is done should be thought over. For example, some people may find it very stressful to sit in a lecture theatre, therefore there needs to be more creative thinking around how lectures are delivered.
It is estimated that there are six times the amount of people now struggling with mental health issues compared to 1995. This means a change needs to come. There have already been large protests in Bristol and in London by students who are demanding change. No one should feel like they cannot ask for help, no one should be sent away, no one should have to wait months for assistance.
We are not a snowflake generation that must be told to ‘get over it’. Instead, the university boards need to change policy, change funding and help to solve an enormous and terrifying epidemic that has spread.