Warning over students mental health amid continuing increase in suicide rates

University students with mental health problems are in danger of “slipping through the gaps” when at their most vulnerable, a report has warned, amid a continuing increase in the number of student suicides.

Several institutions have seen a number of student suicides over a short space of time, while the number of young people dropping out with mental health problems has trebled in recent years, according to research by Universities UK (UUK).

The report also cites a recent study which found 94% of universities had experienced a sharp increase – some as much as three-fold – in the number of people seeking help for mental health issues.

It calls for a more “joined up” approach to mental health care services, with schools, colleges, universities, voluntary organisations and the NHS working together to provide adequate support to students.

UUK said the challenges of starting at university – living away from home and having to make new friends – coupled with them often moving to a new city can lead to them slipping through the gaps of the health service at a time when they need support the most.

Professor Steve West (pictured), Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and chair of UUK’s Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, said: “The system of mental health care for students must be improved.

“Health services aren’t properly designed to help students as they move from home to university. This is too important to ignore and we must not fail a generation by not doing what is required.”

The research features several accounts from students of the difficulties they face, with one reporting they could not access support services while at home during the university holidays.

Another said: “When I moved out of my home area to university, I could no longer access the NHS service I had been with for over a year because I was registered with a GP in another county.

“This was a difficult experience, which left me feeling uncertain of what services I could receive.”

Student suicides in the UK have increased from 108 in 2001 to 134 in 2015, the research states.

There are currently 2.3 million people studying at UK universities.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We need to improve the links between local NHS services and the support that universities provide.

“This research sets out students’ characteristics and vulnerabilities. It dispels commonly held misconceptions and describes opportunities.

“It is essential that these young people are provided with the right support at each step of the pathway.”

– To contact the Samaritans helpline, call 116 123.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) UWE Bristol.