Mental health problems forced me to leave university. Now, new figures show more students than ever are sufferingby Mark Brown / September 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
Your student years: the best years of your life. A time of experimentation and questionable hairstyles and camaraderie watching daytime television. Yet for some students—a minority, but a significant one—this is an aspiration rather than a reality.
This month, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published “Not by Degrees: Improving Student Mental Health in the UK’s Universities’, which paints an altogether grimmer picture for some of our students.
According to the IPPR in 2015/16, 15,395 first year students (2 per cent) disclosed to their university that they experienced a mental health difficulty—almost five times the number in 2006/07. In 2014/15, 1180 students who experienced mental health difficulty dropped-out of university, an increase of 210 per cent compared to 2009/10. Just under half of students who report experiencing a mental health condition choose not to disclose it to their university, so the number of students potentially struggling is far higher.
That some students are suffering in silence is no surprise. In the popular imagination, university is still a place of free and easy self-discovery, somewhere between Hogwarts without the magic and a Club 18-30 holiday with a poncey reading list.
A challenging experience
But university is also for many a totally new experience: a shift of town, a shift of routine, a casting off of old friendships and the hopeful establishment of new ones. Short of joining the navy, going to prison or working on an oil rig, it is hard to picture a life change which expects and enforces such a total change of life circumstances. These changes come at a time where it is also known that many experience their first periods of mental illness, making university a perfect storm of challenges to mental wellbeing.
In many ways, the cultural and political discourse of our country is defined by those who were successful at university. In the past, a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rhetoric has clouded discussion about student mental health, reminiscent of misty-eyed men in gentlemen’s clubs lamenting the passing of the cane in schools. Today, right wingers label universities as liberal breeding grounds for “special snowflakes” demanding equally special treatment.
The numbers in context
The claim from the IPPR report that attracted most notice and column inches was that student suicides rose from…