The number of students accessing mental health services at the University of Edinburgh has been rapidly rising in the last few years, recent statistics show. In the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 3,713 students signed up to the service. With around 36,000 students at the University, this means just over 10% of all students have sought help. This is a high figure, which is concerning. However, as will be explored further, service satisfaction is high. The statistics used within this article come courtesy of a Freedom of Information request.
The statistics released begin in the 2012-13 academic year. In that year, 1,493 students sought help. By the 2014-15 academic year, the total hit 2,053. In 2015-16, it was again up to 2,863. Unfortunately, the 2016-17 academic year witnessed a marked rise – totalling 3,713. This is a remarkable leap in just four years, which is concerning. While every University profiled has seen a rise in service use over the last few years, this is one of the highest rises seen at any institution.
To see so many students seeking help for mental health issues across the United Kingdom is concerning. Many have wondered what has caused this mental health crisis. There are many pressures facing University-aged students currently. High living costs, tuition fees, uncertainty over the future and the competitiveness of the graduate job market are just some of the issues facing students. It has been questioned as to how well-equipped Universities actually are in terms of their provisions for treating mental health.
Despite a worrying amount of students seeking help, the effectiveness of treatment does appear to be a positive. The 2016-17 academic year witnessed a service satisfaction rate of 99%. 78% of users agreed that counselling services helped them remain at University, while 85% stated it had improved their overall experience of University. Unfortunately, 16% of respondents reported waiting times were too long – although this is somewhat understandable given the huge numbers seeking help.
Over the course of the last few years, the number of UK-based students seeking help has lowered, with more international students seeking help. 72% of users of the service in the 2016-17 academic year were female, with 28% male. In terms of the split between undergraduate and postgraduate, 66% of users were undergraduate. This still represents a large community of postgraduate students seeking help. Unfortunately, 8.8% of all appointments were missed. Waiting times would be shortened if so many appointments weren’t missed.
No information regarding the reason/condition behind accessing mental health services was released. However, based on data from other Universities, anxiety and depression are the most common causes of seeking help. Low mood, family issues, stress and bereavement are often other causes. In the bigger picture, hopefully the stigma around mental health will continue to lessen. In any case, Universities around the United Kingdom have considerable work to do in order to address this crisis.
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These are, without doubt, very difficult times to be a student. Yet it is encouraging to see that efforts are being made to help those in need. While in general, provisions for mental health need to be increased, it does appear that positive steps have been taken by many institutions in recent times. The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can contact them in the event of a crisis at 116 123.