A coording to an NUS survey in March, 78% of students have experienced mental
health issues in the last year. A third said that they had had suicidal thoughts, with this figure rising to 55% among LGBT respondents. Mental health issues have been a growing problem over the last five years, with financial worries leading to a surge in students accessing mental health services.
It was therefore disappointing to see the lack of promotion for Mental Health Day. As I was on campus last Monday, I didn’t see anything about mental health. I have seen stalls in the Forum this week by the Samaritans and Mind Your Head Society, but whilst the Guild work hard to organise these events, it’s usually accompanied by a lack of publicity limiting impact.
I know how difficult it can be to talk about mental health; you can feel small and useless, like you’re never good enough. But the University and the Guild need to be proactive in tackling this. This issue will not go away; one in twelve teenagers in the UK self-harms, and depression is a daily reality for one in ten. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of girls aged between 10 and 14 admitted to hospital in England for self-harm increased by 93%.
Having been to the Wellbeing Centre and spoken to
many others about their individual experiences, I know how hard the staff work; however, this service is too often dependent on long waiting times that provide little comfort to students struggling daily. Since 2012, demand for the Wellbeing Centre has increased by over 60%, with access to Depression and Anxiety Services only available one day a week.
I appreciate that the University can only do so much. It is heartening to see that the University has increased its Wellbeing Centre funding by 75% since 2012 and I hope this commitment continues. However, we can still do more. Whilst the Guild does do great work, it needs to improve its publicity to help students. Having a series of well-advertised talks throughout the week to educate students would have made a significant difference. I think providing sessions teaching students about accessing mitigation and assistance like DSA are vital as mental health problems increase further.
I know we can’t deal with every single issue, but we can make a massive difference to the lives of students in Exeter.