It is no surprise that 1 in 4 students have mental health problems since the pressure of university is inflicted on students before the academic year even starts, with a grueling application process and an anxious wait to see which course(s) they are offered a place for. When the academic year commences, students must adapt to the new environment of university, which is taxing in itself, and some students have added burdens like being far from family and/or having a job to fund student necessities. The BBC found that the number of university students in Scotland seeking support for mental health issues has increased by two-thirds over the past 5 years. There is a lot to be said about this finding. Firstly, there has been an increase in awareness of, and discussion of, mental health problems in recent years which has helped to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Thus, this somewhat acceptance of mental health problems results in those struggling sourcing the confidence to ask for help. However, more ominously, the capitalist society that we are living in imposes conditions on students that creates the mental health crisis, which is also a reason for such a high prevalence of mental health problems.
Many families offer each other emotional support and the physical distance that university creates between many families means that students can feel isolated in a time when support is so important. Therefore, it is critical that other means of support are available to them through their university and, more importantly, the NHS. For example, the University of Glasgow offers counselling sessions to students and they have recently employed more professionals to address their students’ mental health problems. However, the counselling sessions are in high demand, so there can be long waits, which is unacceptable when dealing with mental health problems because they are often threateningly all-consuming. Additionally, whilst the efforts of the University of Glasgow in tackling mental illness among their students are appreciated, the services are not sufficient in aiding the recovery of mental illness sufferers since the sessions are short-lived. Consequently, it is essential that the NHS has fully funded adequate services in place for people struggling with their mental health. Unsurprisingly, under our current Tory government, with NHS cuts passed on by the SNP government the NHS is failing mental illness sufferers in many areas, such as long waiting lists for support (e.g. therapy), if the individual is even offered that.
In short, mental health problems must be treated as soon as possible because they are, quite literally, life-threatening due to their aggressive nature. It is therefore perilous and illogical to impose waiting lists and limit support services.
Many students receive a loan, but this is not enough to cover most costs (like food, rent, and study materials) and so they are assisted by family and/or by having a job. It is very demanding for students to have a job since so much time must be invested in studying. Additionally, finding a job that suits students’ schedules is difficult. However, not working is not an option for many students since university is expensive, so countless will settle for poor pay and working conditions because they simply need the money. This creates problems because students that work now have at least two strains: university and their job. It is mindless to suggest that students should merely study and work – obviously leisure time must also be accessible to create an outlet for the stresses of university, which is vital for sustaining good mental health. However, the additional expectations of students makes it increasingly unobtainable to relax during, or even obtain, leisure time. Consequently, and to reiterate, many students suffer from mental health problems because they are so immersed in stresses which could be reduced if the government issued more support. The current status of tuition fees is disparate across the UK, but student grants are no longer issued to most students and tuition fees have increased on a large scale. A systematic change is essential to reintroduce student grants and scrap tuition fees. It is dangerous to put pressure on students to succeed when they also have financial, as well as many other personal, struggles.
Overall, to tackle the mental health crisis among students and young people, the government must improve the NHS’s mental health services and offer more financial support to students. If they do not, then mental illness and suicide cases will rise, and we can assume that more students will drop out of university because it is absurd to expect anyone to endure the adversity that many university students currently face. Capitalism has failed - we need a socialist society where peoples needs and talents are fully realised.
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