By Sam Bradley
There has been a swift rise in the number of students seeking counselling in recent years raising concerns about student life and universities ability to help out these students. During the academic year 2010-2011 6055 students looked to find counselling but in the 2013-2014 academic year the number climbed to 9610, a 58% increase in 3 years, while in the same time period, student numbers fell by 8%.
A report from the Higher Education Funding Council found that numbers of students seeking counselling for mental illness problems has significantly risen, with one institute seeing a massive 50% increase in the demand for student counselling. Sheila Kirkham Leeds Beckett University’s clinical lead for counselling said, ‘ There are more students accessing our services but here we are a well being team so students may ask us for mental health support, well being appointments and counselling. I think this is happening because we are well known now and there were times when students didn’t know that there was a well being team.
I also think that now as time goes on there is less of a stigma about mental health issues and people are more willing to come and speak about them. I also believe that there is a lot more support now in earlier life. Schools and colleges have counselling teams so when students come to university they are probably more likely to use the services. They could possibly be more stressed because of student life but I think mostly students seek counselling about actual life.”
Sheila Kirkham full interview.
It has been reported that cutbacks have been made to student mental health care but at the same time Universities are making themselves better known than ever before when it comes to their support services. University life has changed in recent years with many students having now to perform socially as well as academically. So is this pressure getting to them ? Ruth Caleb the lead Councillor at Brunel Univerisy, West London spoke to the BBC and said that most people use to come to her service with the concerns of “homesickness, first boyfriends, learning to live with new people”, but now the problems students have been coming to her with have been more about “depression, eating disorders, self-harm.”
Students at Goldsmiths University in London held a protest in Deptford Hall campaigning against marketization of universities. But top of their list in their protest was for universities to get more Councillors into their Universities. So there may be a better access to support but it is clear that some students like these at Goldsmiths University believe more Councillors are needed to sufficiently deal with the rise in demand for counselling. On the Leeds Beckett well being website it states you may not be able to be seen straight away, as is the case of many universities around the country. But what if you need the help? Is it fair that you are being made to wait.
Definitively we will never know why this has happened and why more students are seeking this form of help. Whether it be home stresses or the new found stresses in university life. But in 2002 a new law came into place which meant that staff had to have a duty of care to their students. This was then followed by rises in services for students and while these figures can be seen as a concern they can also be seen as a positive. The fact that more students than ever are coming forward to speak is down to universities promoting their well being services over recent years so more people know about them and are willing to use them. If the universities know that these students need help parents will feel a little better about sending their children into university life.
I had the chance to speak to a student who sought after counselling, who did not want to be named, and they had this to say. ” I went to the university for help whilst i was on the waiting list for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) after experiencing anxiety after a specific event. They helped in giving me a session on CBT and explaining how it worked and how to react in situations that made me anxious.It has made me feel alot more at ease and confident in how to deal with difficult situations whilst I wait for my CBT. I think more students are getting counselling because more people know about the services, or even more people have problems that they believe they need to seek help for.”
It is estimated that there are around 115,000 students looking for help in counselling and trying to find the support that they need to help them out during their degree. The universities have made huge steps in the last decade to offer more support to students who need help but there is much work ahead before student services can be seen as the perfect place of help for their students. Contact your university if you require any help from these services. Leeds Beckett University students can find the information at http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/studenthub/counselling/ .