As many as one in three freshers report symptoms of a mental health disorder, a new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found.
The study, of which surveyed 13,984 students in eight different countries, investigated the prevalence of a wide range of mental health disorders thought to be common amongst students, including generalised anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, adult ADHD, major depression and substance abuse and dependence.
The study comes as thousands of new students across the country start an undergraduate degree, identified by the study as an ‘extremely sensitive’ part of the life cycle when emotional problems and mental disorders commonly occur.
35% of students who responded to the survey reported having suffered one of the disorders investigated at one stage during their life, with 31% of them having suffered from them over the 12-month period prior to taking the survey.
The findings, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, are particularly disconcerting given that approximately 75% of all lifetime mental disorders have their onsets prior to the age of 24, especially critical as these early-onset cases are related to poorer clinical and functional outcomes than later-onset cases.
The findings follow calls from Universities UK and the youth suicide prevention charity Papyrus for all university staff to receive training in suicide intervention and prevention, amid growing concerns about the quality of services universities provide to those experiencing mental health problems.
According to estimates from the Office for National Statistics, 95 students took their own lives during the 2016-17 academic year. In the UK, suicide is the main cause of death in people under 35, with over 18,000 people suffering mental health disorders taking their own life between 2003 and 2013, The Mental Health Foundation has found.
Speaking to The Mancunion, Sarah Littlejohn, Head of The University of Manchester’s Counselling Service advised that: “The recent WHO report – although not drawing from a UK population – nonetheless raises important issues in relation to student mental health. We see the mental health and wellbeing of our students as a key priority, and offer resources at all levels.
“We offer a University-wide wellbeing framework – the Six Ways to Wellbeing – as a preventive approach to help students stay well and support their own wellbeing. The Counselling Service also offers a wide range of online tools and modules, and students can access an extensive range of workshops and groups from everything from procrastination, daily drop-in mindfulness classes to groups for low mood and anxiety.
“In addition, those who need one-to-one help can make a same-day appointment at the Counselling Service. We also support staff to support students, offering a rolling programme of training to staff in identifying and responding to mental health crisis – and we have also developed online resources to ensure all staff have access to this information.”
If you are suffering with mental health problems, or know someone who may need help, The University of Manchester offers a number of free and confidential support services that both students and staff can access. The University Counselling Service is open 9am-4pm every weekday, and can be contacted on 0161 275 2864.
Alternatively, The University of Manchester Students’ Union offers a confidential advice service, open Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm all year round. Please ring 0161 275 2952 or email the Advice Service [email protected] to contact an advisor.