Recent ONS research has shown that students are reporting worse key wellbeing measures, such as lower life satisfaction and increased loneliness, compared to that of the general adult population.
Of course it might be fair to expect a general decline in wellbeing amongst the wider population given current pressures on society. The cost of living crisis is having a significant impact on everyone – and the relationship between money and mental health is clear.
But why the disparity between students and the broader population? Why are students affected more negatively than others?
The statistics show a difference that simply can’t be ignored. Twenty four per cent of students report low life satisfaction compared to 10 per cent of adults and 16-29 year olds, and 30 per cent reported low happiness scores compared to 13 per cent of adults and 12 per cent of 16-29 year olds. Additionally, 17 per cent of students are feeling lonely, compared to just 7 per cent of adults and 9% of all 16-29 year olds.
This is why, alongside our partners, we’re using this year’s University Mental Health Day to urge the Government and the higher education sector to redouble their efforts and ensure that student mental health remains a priority.
While University Mental Health Day lasts just 24 hours, the commitment to prioritise and embed student wellbeing must go on throughout the academic year. Without this commitment, we risk more students reaching crisis point.
Student Minds’ research shows that 60 per cent of students say that their current financial situation is negatively impacting their mental health, and 31% have cut back on eating, with 46 per cent saying they have also cut back on things they do for enjoyment.
Yet when it comes to government-led cost of living schemes and funding pots, students find they are often ineligible. This, coupled with the decision to increase maintenance loans by just 2.8 per cent, reflects a picture which suggests students are not a priority and can afford to be ignored.
This is why we’re asking the Government to revise the financial support available to students and uplift maintenance loans so they’re in line with actual inflation rates. Students deserve to be heard and supported.
But it’s not just about money.
In addition to the current societal factors that impact student mental health, students also have to contend with the challenges that have always been part of transitioning into higher education. Moving away from home for the first time, leaving friends and family, managing money and self-directed study. It’s a big change which can be incredibly exciting, but undoubtedly brings with it many new challenges.
So we’re asking universities to sign up to and work with the University Mental Health Charter. The charter provides a framework that universities can work within to ensure a whole University approach to student wellbeing. This means that, in addition to providing specific support services, universities should consider how the physical and residential environment impacts on mental wellbeing, how partnerships and collaborations can help with signposting and access to external services and how curriculum design can play a role in wellbeing, too. The charter also reinforces the need for a focus on staff wellbeing, to help staff feel psychologically safe in the workplace. A holistic approach such as this will undoubtedly positively impact student mental health.
While University Mental Health Day is a key hook, an important date in the diary to start these conversations, we must remember that it is just the beginning. Mental wellbeing should be embedded in everything a university does – 24/7. And students should be engaged in fulfilling, rewarding learning opportunities and supportive communities.
No student should be held back by their mental health.
To find out more about University Mental Health Day visit www.unimentalhealthday.co.uk
To access Student Minds’ mental wellbeing resources, visit www.studentspace.org.uk.
2 responses to “We need to re-focus our efforts on student wellbeing”
“But it’s not just about money.” So true, often it’s the ‘baggage’ they bring from prior education, which combined with the caustic effects of the ‘bros & hoes’ in halls on those around them leads to many already less confident in themselves becoming depressed and withdrawn, making them even bigger targets for the ‘bros and hoes’ in the student body, a very vicious circle.
Might it be suggested that the findings of ‘Embedding mental wellbeing in the curriculum: maximising success in higher education’ report by Anne-Marie Houghton, Jill Anderson, for Advance HE (2017) be an excellent starting point. It concludes that it is the content and process of curriculum delivery that lies at the heart of both problem and solution. Would welcome engagement with others to make inroads into UK HEIs with this focus.