Tackling Mental Health In Our Universities
This article discusses a study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England which focused on students with mental health issues and government changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance. It is concerning to see the government’s decision to change the Disabled Students’ Allowance, which puts institutions under increasing pressure to provide adequate resources. The same applies with the increase of students with mental health issues in universities, and it is clear that universities are not equipped to deal with the sheer amount of students who seek help.
I believe the best way to tackle mental health issues is to encourage open communication within university campuses. More events need to be organised which reach out to those students who feel overwhelmed and isolated. These events do not have to be large scale, something as simple as a coffee morning once a week would give students the opportunity to leave their house and chat with students in similar positions as them. The University of Manchester has numerous group counselling sessions each week which aim at tackling anxiety, depression as well as teaching mindfulness. I only discovered these during Wellbeing Week and was shocked to find that the counselling service offered so much group help, and also concerned that I had never heard of it. Moving forward, it is essential that there is increased advertisement and communication about what institutions DO offer, which would greatly benefit the students, as they would be aware what was available to them. Another great way to tackle this issue, as briefly stated in the article, is to empower students to be able to understand and partially deal with their issues. This can be done by a scheme in universities which focuses on education about mental health issues and simple ways to help students cope. For example, posters can be distributed around the campus stating tips such as ‘instead of looking at your phone on the bus, look out of the window and be in the moment’. This is a simple practice of mindfulness, and begins to teach students the importance of being in the moment, instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future. I believe that universities and society in general need to accept that mental health is a pressing issue which should not be ignored. Ensuring that people feel comfortable and safe when speaking out is important, and never turning away or undermining people’s feelings or issues is key to empowering students.
There are many social, cultural and economic factors which contribute to the increase of mental health issues, especially in students. Pressure from families, the cost of studying and living and the expectation to go on to further studies all come together to make many students feel like they have to perform well. I have felt this pressure myself and only recently I have taken a step back and realised that the grade I get is never worth jeopardising my mental health. Ultimately, one of the most effective ways in which mental health issues can be tackled is through transforming our society into one that does not place academic achievement over wellbeing.