How universities treat mental health is putting degrees at risk

Universities seem to be constantly spouting reminders about looking after yourself and making time to relax between long days of studying and revising for exams. The reality, however, is that they are constantly cutting funding that allows students to access vital mental health resources and that it takes months to get anywhere, whether that is being put on a list for counselling or even getting an initial appointment.

Instead, they send you a barrage of emails about the dogs they have brought onto campus and the horses you can come and stroke. Yes, this is nice and yes, it has been proven to help reduce stress, but it’s not an all-out replacement for mental health resources like the aforementioned counselling and doctor’s appointments. Universities treat mental health issues and temporary mild exam stress as if they are synonymous. Many students are unable to pay for private counselling and heavily rely on their family and friends for support because of this lack of infrastructure.

I’d wager that Universities probably spend more money on designing and printing posters about the importance of looking after your wellbeing while studying than actually putting a foundation in place for the thousands of students who are struggling. I don’t understand how it can be such a prevalent and well-known issue and still many Universities are choosing not to do anything about it (apart from bringing in a therapy dog around exam time).

Understandably, much relies upon the government and the kind of stance that they take. But, Universities are often independent governing bodies that are far, far richer than you’d imagine. I see little point spending money refurbishing a room in the library when in actuality the money could be better and more efficiently spent on better student mental health services. Let’s be honest, the way that most Universities treat mental health only exacerbates the issue but then they fail to provide the fundamental help we need – but don’t worry, there are new seats in the west wing of the library!

More needs to be done and I don’t think this issue is still being taken seriously enough by Universities. If they start to fund more resources designed to help students struggling with mental health, I imagine they’d find higher attendance in lectures and seminars and even better degree classifications overall. Win-win.

Stephanie Bennett

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