Students are struggling to access mental health support

By Monika Metodieva

Almost 60% of students had to wait for mental health support, with 23% actually accessing it during their studies according to  research done by NUS Scotland in October.

Out of 3097 students, more than half of those who used a support service, whether it being institutional or external, had to wait more than a month and 20.8% waited for more than three months.

“There’s not enough mental health support within wider society and the support within universities is symptomatic of that”, said Benn Rapson, Vice President Welfare at the University of Strathclyde.

He added: “Both institutions and the government need to invest in mental health support. More than just counseling – which does need additional funding – but also in preventative action. We need better funded institutions in order to create less stressful campuses.”

Calum Sutherland, a student at the University of Stirling, who was diagnosed with depression, said he was provided with a mentor quickly. However, for more in depth support he had to reach to the counselors:

“The mentor was pretty fast. The counselor was a good bit longer. I was on a waiting list for quite a long time and I chased them up about it.”

Infographic – Monika Metodieva

Some students responded that the fear of being judged is what is stopping them from accessing support. A third of all students indicated that they felt mental health and wellbeing carried a stigma, but students from marginalized groups especially cited social stigma as their concern. 40.84% of disabled students, and 39.72% of LGBT+ students questioned indicated that fear of social stigma created a barrier to access mental health services.

“I don’t really want my lecturers to know about my personal life”, said Stefan Carlin a student at the University of Strathclyde: “I don’t want people to judge me or look at me differently.”

Rapson too recognizes the existence of social stigma regarding mental health and urges universities to do more to improve accessibility to mental health services. He said: “I do believe there is still far too much stigma around mental health.  It can be hard to reach out. I think there are a couple of reasons. Again, stigma but also accessibility.

“Institutions need to get much better at preventative action – that which does not create or increase poor mental health. Sometimes it can be quite hard to find or understand services buried under a plethora of web pages. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start.”

NUS Scotland have continued to fight for issues impacting students’ mental health and have set up the Students Deserve Better campaign since the report’s publication. The campaign calls on the Scottish Government and all MSPs to support calls for increased financial support for students. Strath Union has additionally launched the We Stand With Students initiative to support Strathclyde students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.