Some universities need to triple mental health services funding, says report

Some universities need to triple mental health services funding, says report

Some universities need to triple their funding for mental health services if they are to meet growing demand from students in need of support, according to a new report.

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The paper by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) thinktank says the scale of the mental health problem among university students is “bigger than ever before”.

The report published on Thursday, entitled The Invisible Problem? Improving Students’ Mental Health, says the majority of students experience low wellbeing; depression and loneliness affect one in three; more than one in 10 have a diagnosable mental illness; and the number of student suicides has risen.

Yet according to Hepi, the salary of a university vice-chancellor or a single star academic – which can be upwards of £200,000 – can cost more than a university’s entire counselling service in the lowest-funded institutions.

Other universities spend considerably more on student mental health, including the University of Sussex, which had a £456,000 budget for its counselling services for 2015-16.

Evidence shows that counselling services are highly effective, but student-to-counsellor ratios can be three to four times lower than the required number. Therefore, according to Hepi, those universities spending the least need to increase funding threefold.

Nick Hillman, Hepi director, said: “Mental disorders are most common in young adults, just at the age when many people become students. Going to university can be stressful, especially for first-in-family students. Typically, you lose your established support networks, move to a new part of the country and take on large debts. Occasionally, it even ends in tragedy.

“So it is vital that people entering university for the first time know that support is available, that any problems can be shared, and that asking for help is normal.”

As well as increased spending, the report recommends that students should be allowed to register with one doctor at home and one at university to ensure continuity of care; universities should adopt mental health action plans to improve their service; and all staff who have regular contact with students should be given mental health training.

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