Almost 40% of college students severely anxious

Almost 40% of third level students experience severe levels of anxiety, while almost 30% are severely depressed, a new report from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has revealed.

Last year, the USI launched a national survey on mental health and it has now published a report into the findings.

The report notes that students in third level education can be exposed to many stresses, which can trigger or exacerbate mental health issues. These can include living away from family for the first time, financial pressures and academic demands.

Over 3,300 students took part in the survey, with 41% of these attending universities and 47% attending institutes of technology.

The survey found that 38% of students were experiencing severe levels of anxiety, 29% were severely depressed while 17% were severely stressed.

It also found that 32% have had a formal diagnosis of a mental health difficulty at some point in their lives, however overall, almost 21% did not have anyone to talk to about their personal or emotional difficulties.

Financial pressure was a major issue, with those dependent on financial assistance displaying the highest levels of anxiety, depression and stress. Those dependent on credit union loans were most likely to be severely anxious (52%), severely depressed (36%) and severely stressed (25%).

Almost half of those who took part in the survey were in employment, with most of these working part-time. The report noted that working impacted on some students' ability to socialise with their classmates.

It also found that 76% of students were aware of on-campus services to support their mental health, however over 20% were not aware of these.

Meanwhile, almost 55% agreed that a free face-to-face counselling service is important on campus, however many students also said they would not attend counselling.

The USI said that the findings provide plenty of data on student mental health, providing "clear evidence on issues only known anecdotally before now".

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:
-Free student counselling services on campus should continue to be supported and funded
-Students have been shown to play a key role in informally supporting each other. With this in mind, peer support programmes should be standardised, further developed and expanded
-An audit of services should be introduced to ensure that all students are receiving the highest quality of care. Poor practices should be highlighted and discontinued
-Academic staff should be offered tailored training in how to deal with, or refer, students with mental health difficulties to the appropriate services
-Being involved in activities outside of coursework had a positive impact on students' mental health. The impact of exercise and being involved in sport was particularly evident, so the USI recommends that all students should have access to a free gym pass.

"This document should be used as a point of reference going forward, giving it a place on every desk and table when the discussion of student mental health is brought forward.

"The road ahead will be long and will be met with challenges, but the national student movement will be at the forefront of lobbying for change when it comes to student mental health," commented USI president, Lorna Fitzpatrick.

The report can be viewed here.


[Posted: Wed 28/08/2019]

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