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Student mental health has been the subject of a number of reports as students are increasingly declaring mental conditions and reporting issues with stress and poor mental wellbeing. It has been suggested that student mental health is in ‘crisis’.

The proportion of students who disclosed a mental health condition to their university has increased rapidly in recent years. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on student’s mental health. Coronavirus restrictions affect student’s academic, social and family life and mean they can feel particularly isolated. The majority of students report that their mental health and wellbeing has deteriorated. Students have higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness than the general population.

Surveys of students have found much higher rates of mental ill health than those disclosed to universities. A recent survey found that 21.5% had a current mental health diagnosis and 33.9% had experienced a serious psychological issue for which they felt they needed professional help. Survey responses are confidential and are likely to give a better idea of the full extent of mental ill health.

Many factors have been suggested as contributing to the rise in cases of mental ill health among higher education students – work pressures, moving away from home, financial worries, or more generally higher education institutions are said to be feeling the impact of the rise in metal health conditions among the 16-25 age population.

The effect of mental health issues on students can be serious and can lead to consequences such as: academic failure, dropping out of education, poorer career prospects and in the worst cases suicide.

Concern has been expressed about the availability of support for students with mental health conditions and the response of universities and higher education institutions.

In 2017 Universities UK, published Stepchange Mental health in higher education. Stepchange provides a framework to help higher education providers embed good mental health across all university activities.

This briefing sets out data on the prevalence of student mental health conditions and outlines what action higher education providers, the government and the Office for Students are taking to help students with mental health issues. It also flags up how students can get support.

Library briefing, Mental health services for post-16 students in England, 7 December 2017, also covers student mental health.


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