In the latest statistics report by the Mental Well-Being in Higher Education (MWBHE), it was revealed that 80% of universities in the country have seen a significant increase in the number of students seeking university services for mental health. But with the recent budget cut, a big challenge lies ahead.
More Students Need University Counselling Services
University counselling has become indispensable as more and more students are facing mental and emotional issues. More often than not, students would rather discuss their personal problems with a school counsellor than with their parents. Almost all schools have their own programs designed to address mental health problems in youth. As their first port of call, students who are suffering from common behavioural problems such as anxiety and depression normally resort to university counselling services.
According to MWBHE, there was 13% increase during the past five years in the demand of counselling services. Experts pointed out that the increase was affected by several factors. These include the rising cost of tuition fees as well as changes in the society. In the past years, access to higher education also went up, allowing less privileged students to pursue their studies while shouldering financial burden. And for many students, financial problems are a great source of stress.
The Heads of University Counselling Services Group (HUCS) cited some other psychological problems that can affect a student’s performance in school. These include anxiety about upcoming exams and projects, loneliness, peer pressure, homesickness, traumatic experiences, and issues involving sexuality.
At present, most universities are providing in-house counselling because getting services from a local GP isn’t easy. There seems to be less funding for mental health than for physical health. And even if students can get services from the NHS, actual visitation to the GP may not be convenient for some. Basically, setting up appointments during examination period is almost impossible. Sometimes, they have already gone back home for school holidays by the time they got an appointment. Dr Annie Grant, director of student services at the University of East Anglia pointed out the importance of in-house counselling. Students are as busy as the working professionals. As Dr Grant put it, they have deadlines to meet. If they’re sick, they fall behind.
Is there Enough Funding for Mental Health?
Despite the increase demand for university counselling services, mental health funding has remained the same over the past years and is even drifting down today due to the budget cut. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, universities are struggling to meet demand but the strict funding is putting too much strain on universities. Aside from helping resolve mental problems, university counselling is a source of motivation and encouragement for students. School counsellors help students with psychological problems not to drop out. As a result, there will be no wasted talent. However, it can be easy for schools to cut expenses on mental health services since they are not obliged to allocate a specific amount for it. Neither are they required to develop policies on mental health.
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What do you think? Is the current setup for university counselling service enough to address mental health issues in students? Or is time to make some changes?