Mental health has started to become more acceptable to talk about compared to ten years ago. But some students still struggle to speak about it, and this may be due to how schools go about helping.
According to 2017 statistics, mental health affects one in every four people. The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.
It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
Reports from both England and Wales suggest that approximately 1 in 8 adults with a mental health problem are currently receiving treatment. Medication is reported as the most common type of treatment for a mental health problem.
As children’s mental health becomes one of society’s most pressing issues, many teachers find themselves on the frontline, with the effect being felt in schools across the country. In 2017, 79% of teachers in both primary and secondary schools reported seeing an increase in stress, anxiety and panic attacks in their pupils as well as a rise in depression, self-harm and eating disorders. But without specialist training, which isn’t currently a requirement – a lot of those working in schools feel unprepared for the challenges they are facing.
Speaking to a teacher at St Ursula’s E-Act academy, he said that, “mental health is very important in the curriculum and should be accessed at every opportunity! The children grow up in a society in which all children in their school life will have some sort of mental health issue.
“Schools have a key role to play and should be allowing this to take place. My experience we have a pastoral team which help any children through hard times and mental health issues and it is accessed as a lesson when doing PSHE and having discussions about certain issues.
“Currently, I have multiple children who have experienced mental health and try to deal with it with the support of my team however it is very tough to do so and say the correct things.”
What can schools do?
- Start talking about it.
- Set up talk groups during lunch where people can go if they need help.
- Remind students that it’s okay to talk.
- Have a professional come in and speak to students who need help.
The UK student population has doubled in the last twenty years to almost two million. During this time, higher tuition fees have increased pressure on students. 75% of students who receive a maintenance loan feel stressed about their debt.
It may not be a total surprise then that a 2015 NUS survey revealed that 78% of students experienced mental health issues during the previous year. And for 33% of those questioned this included suicidal thoughts.
The situation has been described as a “mental health crisis” – with student support services struggling to meet demand. Student suicides are also at a ten-year high.
A survey of students in 2016 also found lower life satisfaction levels reported in the 16-19 and 20-24 age groups, compared to the general population – which suggests that attending university can negatively affect students’ well-being.
At the University of Gloucestershire, they have a dedicated team to help people. They have four people per campus, but this isn’t enough. They received 21,000 calls and e-mails between September and October. This means each day, they received, on average, 4,200 calls per campus, 68 calls each day. Each person had to deal with 18 people a day, between the hours of nine and five.
It is clear then that universities need to ensure the right sort of support is in place to avoid a continuing crisis on campus, as well as making sure that student mental health is taken seriously.