Mental health demands not being met, says new report


By Chester Cornford

Student’s demands for mental health support are not being met by universities, according to a new report by The Higher Education Policy Institute.

Citing reporting The Times in 2016, it shows a rise of 68% in requests for counselling at Russel Group universities since 2011. The report also notes that NUS Scotland found a 47% increase from 2011 to 2015.

The report says that “many universities have effective support services but demand is not being met in full. Funding is limited and many students slip through the gaps.”

The report notes that students and young people are at particular risk of mental health problems. Of those with mental illness, around three quarters have symptoms before the reach their mid-20s.

It shows how counselling can be vital to students, citing research from the British Association of Counselling and Pyschotherapy in 2012. It found that 81% of students who used counselling felt it helped them stay in higher education.

The report points to a 2016 press release by NUS Scotland that found an average of £200,000 is spent on mental health services at institutions across the country. It notes that this is less than most university principles’ salaries. Jim McDonald, principle of the University of Strathclyde, earns £343,000.

The report advises a threefold increase in spending on mental health services. It also recommends that students be allowed to register with a GP both at home and at their term time residence.

The findings are supported by the publication of the annual Scottish Health Survey for 2015, published on September 20th of this year. It found little overall change in mental wellbeing in Scotland since 2008. It found a 3% increase in the number of adults with anxiety, from 9% over the 2012/2013 period to 12% over 2014/2015.

The report led to wide criticism of Scotland’s record on health. Anas Sarwar, health spokesman for Scottish Labour spoke of the ‘little progress made.’

In more direct criticism of the SNP, Brian Whittle, sports spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said ‘There is one very clear message from this report – the SNP has failed on health.’

The SNP state that they have made ‘improving mental health services a priority.’ Measures they have taken including the appointment of Jamie Hepburn as Scotland’s first mental health minister with specific responsibility for mental health care.

The Scottish Association of Mental Health and the wellbeing centre at the University of Strathclyde were both contacted for comment but did not respond as of time of writing.}