Do universities really care about your mental health?

The answer is NO; and it’s time we stop pretending.

British universities risk failing a generation unless students get better mental health care.

Listen, the world has changed, and is constantly changing. If universities fail to adapt to the growing demands of proper mental health services, they will become not only a part of the problem, but completely responsible.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students struggle to make the transition from high school to university. Think about the 21 year old man who society claims is “socially awkward”, locked away in his room, no friends, isolated, with nobody to hear his cry for help. How can a university help him? With an email?

I don’t think so.

John Shearing, a 23 year old final year student in a Russell Group University said this “ I think my university is like every other organisation these days; they want to look like they care about mental health, so they tick the boxes and do the bare minimum so that in case of a tragedy, they can always claim to have done their best”. John went through a mental breakdown in his second year and if not for the help of his close friends, he claims that he would be dead, or missing. He spent 2 months in the psych ward, getting fed anti psychotic pills daily, and what did his university do? After being released, they kicked him out for missing his exams, and offered no sort of support during or after the incident. They even went ahead to withhold his transcripts until he paid a fee to release them.

John is one of many students, most of which don’t have friends willing to drop everything to get them the help they need. So what happens to them then?

Is this what student’s lives mean to these institutions?

The Institute for Public Policy Research Analysis found that compared to a decade ago, the number of students that have disclosed a mental health condition to their universities has increased FIVEFOLD. This could be partly due to the fact that the stigma around mental health has lessened over the years. Nevertheless, the demand for university mental health services is growing exponentially and higher education institutions need to be better placed to deal with this.

The Guardian’s Annual Student Experience Survey showed that about 90% of first year students find it difficult to cope with social or academic aspects of uni life. So let me ask you a question; if every single student that had a mental health issue reached out to their university, would they be willing to offer the appropriate services? Or better yet, Do you think that your university wants every student with mental health issues to come forward? It’s almost as if universities want you to come forward with your mental health issues, until you do.

Several articles and publications have put pressure on Universities to take student mental health more seriously, it needs to be a strategic priority across all universities.

Some experts will argue that universities cannot be held completely accountable for complex mental health issues that their students arrive with. That alone shows you how far behind universities are in taking student mental health seriously. With that kind of mentality, how do you expect students with a background of mental illness to reach out to their university for help? The fact that some will rather blame the parents than acknowledge a growing problem is terrifying for our future.

Universities need to work in close partnership with parents, schools and employers to prepare students for transitions and also with the NHS to coordinate care for students and make the whole process seamless. Holistic approaches need to be taken and collaboration among parties is essential, with students and staff involved at all stages of the journey.

Universities need to do more, you need to do more, we need to do more.