Mental health at the University of Exeter: is enough being done?
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT RELATING TO SUICIDE WHICH SOME READERS MAY FIND DISTRESSING
Exeposé conducted an investigation into student perception on the University of Exeter’s mental health services. Some students gave a detailed account of their struggles which they feel have been ignored despite their attempts to find help.
A 2018 study conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) found that university students were more likely to report experiencing mental health issues than non-university students. The study found that 15 per cent of university students reported a current mental health condition compared to nine per cent of non-university students. Additionally, students were more likely to have received a formal diagnosis for a mental health conditions.
Mental health has become an increasingly urgent issue on university campuses worldwide. The University of Exeter is no exception, with a growing number of students seeking support for mental health issues. While the university has made strides in providing support, there are concerns that more needs to be done. With a recent change in the mitigation process amalgamating the already stressful academic pressure and an increasing financial burden due to the cost of living crisis, students are finding themselves feeling more and more disappointed in the university’s approach to mental health.
Two years on from the suicide of Harry Armstrong Evans, his parents have endlessly campaigned for Harry’s Law to be passed by Parliament. This law would aim to ensure that: coroners to inform universities when the suicide of an enrolled student is registered; universities annually publish the suicide rate of enrolled students; and universities are placed into ‘special measures’ when suicide rates exceed that of the national average. However, it has less than 2,000 signature at the time of writing.
The University of Exeter has taken steps in the past to address mental health challenges on campus, but still some student report mixed to negative feelings about the services offered. One student said: “[Due to an abusive relationship] I failed my first year to such an extent that they did not allow me to continue to second year – or to repeat first year. I am appealing that decision now but my emails aren’t being replied to, they won’t meet with me and I don’t know where I stand.”
Another student anonymously reported to Exeposé: “Today is just another day where I’ve stayed up till 6 am with anxiety because the teachers don’t seem to help and only tell me to meditate. [I have] two submissions and one exam in week five already. Not to mention the exam is on campus at 7 pm. I feel like a robot who is supposed to be available for the university 24/7 mentally and physically to get their orders cleared. It’s a pathetic feeling when you’re crying, want to stop and can’t because all you can do is feel sorry for yourself and are also aware of the fact that they honestly don’t care. I’ve had three anxiety [attacks] in the last hour and can’t contact my family because of the time difference. I’m a first-year undergrad who’s already tired of the lies these people say on a daily about caring for our mental health.”
[…]my emails aren’t being replied to, they won’t meet with me and I don’t know where I stand.*Sue, not real name
Academic stress was the most common issue causing mental health crises reported to Exeposé. Students who reported having overall positive experiences with Wellbeing and their faculty welfare team, also mentioned the pitfalls when it came to addressing the isolation they feel, especially first year students who struggle with the adjustment from A-Levels. A survey conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 87% of students reported feeling anxious or stressed in the past year, with academic pressure being the most cited cause of stress. At the University of Exeter, the number of students seeking support for mental health issues has risen dramatically in recent years. According to data from the university, the number of students seeking counselling has risen by 62% since 2016, while the number of students accessing mental health support services has risen by 71%.
Financial concerns can also contribute to mental health challenges. Students have reported struggling with managing their budgets especially with the increasing rental prices across Exeter and the cost of living crisis has prompted some students to consider dropping out. In a survey conducted by Save the Student, 80% of students reported feeling stressed about money, with concerns about rent and the cost of living being the most cited causes of financial stress.
In recent years, the University of Exeter has taken multiple steps to address mental health challenges on campus. The Student Health Centre offers a range of services, including counselling and CBT therapy through Silvercloud and mental health support from wellbeing. It also revealed to Exeposé further plans to overhaul the student welfare system with various changes aimed to ensure that student mental health is prioritised.
Despite these efforts, concerns remain about the level of support provided by the university. In a survey conducted by the university’s student newspaper, Exeposé, over 60% of respondents felt that the university was not doing enough to support students’ mental health. Students cited long waiting times for counselling, limited resources, and a lack of awareness about available services as reasons for their dissatisfaction.
I’m a first-year undergrad who’s already tired of the lies these people say on a daily about caring for our mental health.Anonymous first-year student at the University of Exeter
As the challenges of mental health on campus continue, it’s clear that more needs to be done to support students. The university has acknowledged the need for further action, with plans to expand its mental health services. In a recent statement, the university announced plans to hire additional counselling staff and increase the number of training opportunities for peer support volunteers. The university has also committed to investing in a new mental health strategy, which will include a review of current services and the development of new initiatives.
The challenges of mental health on university campuses are complex and multifaceted. While the University of Exeter has taken steps to address these challenges, there is a need for further action. With the number of students seeking support for mental health issues continuing to rise, it’s essential that the university provides the resources and support necessary for students to thrive both academically and personally. As one student put it, “We need to make sure that mental health is a priority, and that students know that they’re not alone.”
Harry’s Law petition is available to sign here.
If these issues affect you, you can get in touch with: Samaritans 116 123 or Exeter Student Nightline 01392 724000