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The number of student referrals to the University’s counselling and mental health services has reached a high. In the academic year 2017/2018, 1594 referrals have been made, more than double from 754 in 2013/2014.
Information acquired also shows that more female students have been referred to the mental health services than male, (985 referrals, compared to 605). The release of this information follows ‘Movember’, an annual event which takes place every November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, including mental illness. 6 out of 10 suicides are men, and groups and societies across the University took part in the event to raise awareness for the cause, including the men’s rugby team who have raised around £8000 for the cause.
One student who has accessed the University’s mental health services spoke to SCAN and said, “I’ve contacted the University counselling services on a few occasions, and have always been satisfied with the response I have received, especially knowing how busy they must be. However, I’ve found speaking to my College Wellbeing Officer to be a much friendlier and more helpful source of support. My time at university has affected my mental health in ways I could not foresee – and although the University and Union are actively trying to make services more available, I feel they should instead focus on the root causes of why so many students are now needing mental health support after coming into their care.”
This news is accompanied by the recent publication of the article ‘Psychological Correlates of Self-Harm within Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual UK University Students’ by a team of academics including Dr Elizabeth McDermott, part of Lancaster University’s Faculty of Health and Medicine. It shows that university students who identify as either Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual are at a higher risk of self-harm and attempted suicide than those who identify as heterosexual. McDermott said of the matter, ‘Young people’s mental health is a national concern and this study confirms that lesbian, gay or bisexual young people have elevated rates of suicidality and self-harm compared with heterosexual youth. We know much less about how LGB young people seek help for their mental health problems, or what type of support would be effective.’
The university has also increased its expenditure on student counselling services from £262,000 in 2013-2014 to £522,234 in 2017-2018.
Awareness of mental health has seen an increase in the university, with the student group ‘LU Mental Health’ gaining popularity both on social media and on campus. SCAN contacted the group, who noted that in recent years there has been an ‘increasing global movement’ which is centred around mental health and its importance. They stated, ‘When a student first comes to university, they are away from the comforting crux of their hometown, childhood friends and home. Wellbeing consists of a balanced diet, a good amount of sleep, creativity, alone time, being productive and balancing time efficiently. How is a first year meant to get these things right immediately? The steps to positive mental health are a learning curve, and with this fast-paced, forward-thinking digitalised era, it is not surprising that access to support services is increasing. Most importantly, social media has led to an empowering movement which has increased mental health awareness, people are no longer ashamed. As a Western society, we understand that well-being is important and everyone’s problems matter, no matter how small or big.’
This greater awareness of mental health has undoubtedly reduced some of the stigma surrounding mental health, which will hopefully continue in the future. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article or believe that you could benefit from counselling or mental health services, contact the University’s wellbeing services.