As pressure on students increases, the number of people seeking counselling for serious issues is rising
This week, it has been reported that an increasing number of students are in need of university-based counselling due to rising stress and anxiety levels.
The chair of Universities UK’s mental wellbeing working group, Ruth Caleb, says the number of students using counselling services is usually between 5 per cent and 10 per cent—an estimated 115,000 students—but that now counselling services are facing an annual 10 per cent rise in demand.
Alicia Pena Bizama, head of wellbeing at the University of Reading, attributes this rise to the increasing pressure on students, in terms of job prospects, the cost of university, and subsequent debt.
Moreover, a greater number of students are seeking services for more serious problems. A report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) stated that instead of students reporting friendship and relationship or family issues, more students are reporting problems such as depression and anxiety. Strikingly, the report also stated that more students than ever are at a high risk of harming themselves.
However, this is not solely a university issue; there has been an increase generally in mental health issues nationwide. However this means that the NHS’s Mental Health service is struggling to keep up with demand, subsequently causing an increase in students seeking university counselling support.
A third year English Literature student who seeks help from the University of Manchester’s counsellors praised the service overall, but said: “They’re definitely very busy. You can easily get appointments a few weeks in advance, but the demand means that it is hard to get a quick appointment, and sometimes you do need to speak to someone on the day.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We take the welfare of our students and staff very seriously and have invested greatly in our services to support wellbeing.
“The university’s Counselling Service has seen an increase in the number of students and staff using its services over the past five years, although, in general, the severity and complexity of the cases they see has not changed.
“The reason for the increased number of users is likely to be due to many factors, including the higher profile of our Counselling Service and, happily, the reduced stigma associated with people using such services, which at Manchester accounts for just over 6 per cent of our staff and student population.
“University can be an exciting but also challenging time. The university recognises this and offers flexible and innovative responses. Alongside one-to-one counselling sessions, we provide a wide range of online resources and workshops focused on managing stress and anxiety; helping students handle academic pressures; improving their resilience, and regulating their mood.
“We have just opened a number of purpose-built Wellbeing Rooms in the Simon Building that will provide a fantastic new space for a range of activities that support the physical and psychological wellbeing of both our students and staff, starting with ‘Wellbeing Week’ this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.” [October 6th – 8th]
Visit the University Counselling Service’s website at manchester.ac.uk/counselling for more information on self-help and guidance, or to book an appointment.