Student mental health and wellbeing have been high on the university agenda since it was recognised that there appeared to be higher levels of mental distress amongst students compared to their non-student peers. Coupled with the intimate link between achieving academic success and strong mental health, the case for university and students’ unions’ teams to focus on developing their wellbeing support and services has been inarguable.
Whilst there have been occasional tragic cases where students haven’t found the support and interventions they needed, Alterline’s most recent (19/20) ‘Being Well, Doing Well’ insight project shows that communication of the offer of university and students’ union support is improving and students are more aware of the help being made available to them. Respondents who felt that their university publicised information about mental health support well was up 7% from our 17/18 findings and recognition of unions’ support increased by 5%.
Despite their increased awareness of support and service availability however, student need continues to grow. Of the 6,165 students we surveyed this year just over half (51%) disclosed that they currently had a mental health issue, a 6% increase on our previous findings, and concerningly, 54% of all students who responded said they had considered taking their own life. Alterline, and other sector research consistently finds high and increasing levels of mental health issues and adverse stress amongst students.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10th October, we’re reflecting both on the findings from our ‘Being Well, Doing Well’ insight and also on how the current conditions at university are putting even more pressure on students’ mental health:
- The additional pressure on Year One students making the transition from home , managing their new independence and control over finances whilst trying to forge new relationships and a new social identity amid social distancing and local lockdowns
- All students facing disruption to their teaching and assessment experiences, particularly stressful for students who have just started their final year with a crucial evaluation timetable ahead of them
- Dealing with personal and family health concerns including coping with safety, loss and possibly bereavement.
“I feel like this lockdown will have a big impact on the mental health of a lot of the students” said one student affected by one of the more high-profile university accommodation lockdown incidents earlier this month; a sentiment which continues to be echoed by the student population across social media and the press.
With Covid-19 set to cause prolonged stress and uncertainty over the months ahead, universities will clearly have to remain ever more vigilant when supporting the wellbeing of their students. Continuing to develop their understanding of their student demographic and their particular needs will be a priority if they are to take action and design effective mental health initiatives and preventative support solutions.
For more information about Alterline’s ‘Being Well, Doing Well’ insight and how it can form part of a university or students’ union solution to understanding and supporting student needs, please see here.
 Diginbox.com ‘Mental Health Report’ (2020), [https://www.diginbox.com/go/files/Mental%20Health%20Report%202019%20(2020).pdf]
 BBC News, ‘Covid: Manchester Metropolitan students feel completely neglected’ (28/9/20) [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-54324687]