UK University Students Report Stress, Mental Health Issues

The latest study from the National Union of Students discovered a staggering number of UK university students suffer from mental health issues, reports Holly Baxter from the Guardian.

The study found that out of 1,200 students from the UK who were surveyed, 80% reported feeling stressed, 50% suffer from insomnia or sleep problems and 55% experience anxiety. One in ten students reported having suicidal feelings and 40% reported feelings of “hopelessness” and “worthlessness”.

With each graduating class performing better than the class that came before it, it’s no wonder that it is getting increasingly difficult to get into university. Upcoming students deal with an increasing amount competition each year, not to mention fees that can cost 9,000 GBP a year.

The admission process is grueling with interviews and specific aptitude tests. Students are expected to be highly academic, but also well rounded. After all that hard work one would think that students feel a sense of achievement instead of the ‘hopelessness’ and ‘worthlessness’ that is reported in the survey.

Once admitted students are attending classes that have been compromised by educational cuts and have disappointing student-to-teacher ratios. The stress of deadlines that begins freshman year is only to be met by the stress of the recession and the job hunt after their final one.

Students worry they are nothing special for having a degree since UK graduated job vacancies recently outnumbered roles that don’t require any qualifications.

Michael Chessum, president of the University of London Union, pointed out in response to the NUS survey that student poverty has been “rising exponentially, while more and more of us are being pushed into working long hours to make ends meet”. The fact that his own job title is quite possibly soon-to-be meaningless – considering an internal review at the University of London recently recommended shutting down the students’ union – is depressing enough.

Students in groups such as the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts protest to attempt to change things on a political level, but it hasn’t yielded much change.

An ONS report of the recession years showed that student suicides had increased dramatically between 2007 and 2011, with rates of female suicides in particular almost doubling.

It’s a shame, then, that during cuts that ravaged student welfare, mental health services have often been the first to go. In the callous words of the vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton last month: “Students don’t come to university for support staff.” But if modern student life continues to have such a bleak outlook, he might find that the brightest and best don’t come to university at all.