Mental health issue among university students is a major growing health concern. Research conducted in recent years has established that cases of students diagnosed with mental health issues are on the rise. A study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found out that one in four students in the US suffers from a mental-related health issue. In the UK, university counselors have reported increased cases of students dealing with mental-related issues. A survey conducted by NUS in 2014 established that 75% of the students suffered from a mental health issues (Winrow, 2017). There are also increased cases of university students dropping out of school because of being overwhelmed by mental health issues. Mental health status of a university student is of uttermost importance because it plays a critical role in shaping the education life.
In the UK, about 15,000 first year students reported dealing with mental health issues (Burns, 2017). The figures are a sharp contrast to about 3000 students in 2006 that were diagnosed with mental health issues. Surveys conducted by different companies have also established that females are more likely to report a mental health issue than males.
Mental health issues affecting university students
There are numerous mental health issues that affect university students. Depression is among the prevalent mental health issues among students. A survey conducted by YouGov found that 77% of students with mental health issue had depression (Aronin and Smith, 2016). Anxiety is another mental health issue facing university students. Anxiety is largely caused by divergent issues like exam fear and experiencing difficulties while studying. University education is quite demanding and may prove a high-energy consuming activity for some students. Students are also expected to attain a certain score to guarantee them a pass in a certain class. Resultantly, some students may become anxious about their performance, which may affect their mental status. Stress among university students is another major mental health issue. Stress among university students is influenced by different factors. The highly demanding university studies are a leading cause of stress among the university students. Other causes of stress include examinations, deadlines, managing debts and demand coursework. Other mental health issues facing university students in the UK include self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and addiction.
Causes of mental health issues
There are numerous and divergent students pressures that may cause mental health issues. They include;
- Living independently for the first time
Some university students are compelled to live independently depending on the location of the university they study. Living away from their homes may result to loneliness. Students living alone may feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, which they are expected to do on their own. At times, they may also feel scared. Such situations may lead to mental health issues.
- Managing an increased workload
Students are expected to go through a large amount of workload during their university education. Students are expected to bear the amount of workload expected in a university. However, some students find it a tall order, which may make them uncomfortable and unhappy. Failing to manage increased workload can result in poor performance. Such students may fail to complete assignment and fail to meet deadlines set for different academic activities. As a result, such students may develop stress, which affects their mental health status.
- Additional work responsibilities
Some students may be in engaged in other responsibilities like working on a part-time basis. They may engage in such activities to raise income that will help them to sustain their university education. Balancing between education and part-time job is at times a challenge that may bring health mental issues.
- Culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness
International students studying in different UK universities suffer from culture shock, language barrier, and homesickness. These students are compelled to leave their families and countries and embark on education in the UK. They are compelled to go through a difficult period of learning a new culture feel like strangers. Cultural differences may at times feel strange and difficult to adopt. International students also experience language barrier, which may make it difficult for them to comprehend what the professors are saying. Language barrier may also make it difficult for such students to interact with local students. International students experience homesickness because they are separated from their family and loved ones. Such issues lead to substantial levels of stress, which affect their mental health status.
- Increased study costs
The cost of funding university education is on the rise. Resultantly, students are increasing a difficult situation of dealing with the soaring expenses to fund their education. A research conducted among 2000 students by NUS established that a third of them report of having mental health issues because of financial problems (Minsky, 2016). The students stated credit cards and payday loans as some of the financial problems that contributed to mental health issues. Maintenance loans given to students results in increased stress because students are worried about their debts.
- Increasingly competitive job market
The job market is getting increasingly competitive, which results in increased pressure among university students. New grads looking for jobs are compelled to cope with increased competition. Employers have increased the competitiveness of the job market because they are looking for grads that possess hard and STEM skills. Universities are churning out students, who do not have employability skills that can match the fast-changing skills that characterize the competitive job market.
Curbing health mental issues
Besides relying on health authorities to monitor mental health issues among students, universities need to increase support services that should look after their own students to help them deal with mental health issues. The already established support services that deal with mental health issues are overwhelmed by the increasing number of students affected. A study conducted by IPPR found out that one in four students is using or waiting to use counseling services. In Leeds University, the study found out that there was a 50% increase in demand of mental health services, while the University of Birmingham there has been an annual increase of 5-6% for the past 10 years in need of the services (Burns, 2017). Universities need to prioritize mental health issues and channel more resources and effort towards curbing the issues. Additionally, universities need to improve students’ access to National Health Service (NHS)
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In summary, it is evident from the above discussion that mental health issues among university is a major concern that should be taken more seriously given the rising cases of the affected students. Mental health issues stem from different student pressures like living independently for the first time, managing an increased workload, additional work responsibilities, and soaring university cost. Students may experience different mental health issues like depression, stress, anxiety, and eating disorders. Universities need to increase their efforts towards establishing the right support services to handle increasing cases of students experiencing mental health issues.
Aronin, S. and Smith, M. (2016). YouGov | One in four students suffer from mental health problems. [online]
YouGov: What the world thinks. Available at: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/08/09/quarter-britains-students-are-afflicted-mental-hea/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].
Burns, J. (2017). ‘Sharp rise’ in student mental illness. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-41148704 [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].
Minsky, C. (2016). UK students’ mental health affected by financial worries. [online] Times Higher Education (THE). Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/news/uk-students-mental-health-affected-financial-worries [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].
Winrow, L. (2017). More students are dropping out of university because of mental health. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/more-students-are-dropping-out-of-university-because-of-mental-health-problems-a7788901.html [Accessed 15 Feb. 2018].
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