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Young adults aged 16–24 today are more likely than previous generations of young adults to experience mental health issues and the numbers of students reporting mental ill health is increasing.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in September 2017 found that in 2015/16, 15,395 UK-domiciled first-year students at HEIs in the UK disclosed a mental health condition – almost five times the number in 2006/07 – this equates to 2 per cent of first-year students in 2015/16. An earlier YouGov survey in August 2016 found that more than a quarter of students (27%) reported having a mental health problem.

The impact of mental health issues can be serious and according to the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) there has been a 210% increase in the number of students leaving university due to mental health problems over the last five years.

Children and Adolescents Mental Health Services (CAMHS) work with young people up until the age of 18. Once a young person is over the age of 18 they can be referred to adult mental health services (AMHS). This transition from CAMHS to AMHS can be particularly difficult for young students who may also be moving away from home to attend college or university.

A report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) by the Institute for Employment Studies and Researching Equity, Access and Partnership listed the following as the main drivers behind an increase in demand for support for mental health problems in higher education (HE):

  • a more open culture in society concerning mental health;
  • changes in healthcare leading to more reliable diagnoses at much earlier stages of students’ lives, and better quality treatment allowing students to access HE who would not have been able to do so in the past;
  • institutions developing a reputation for supporting students;
  • and greater financial and academic pressures on students leading to problems emerging during studies.

This briefing paper gives an overview of: recent studies on mental health in colleges and universities; Government mental health policy for students; CAMHS and the transition phase to AMHS; support in further and higher education providers, the legal and statutory responsibilities of providers and issues raised.

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