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More Than 200,000 Students Sought Support For Mental Health Last Year

Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, said the government "need to get a grip of the mental health crisis" in universities (Alamy)

3 min read

New research by Labour has shown that more than 200,000 students reached out to get support for
their mental health across the UK in 2020/21.

Opposition MPs say this is a three-fold increase over the last decade and are urging the government to back their preventative approach to improve university welfare.

On average, 2,302 students sought support per university in 2020/21, up from 715, in 2010/11, according to information obtained in freedom of information requests from 90 UK universities.

Data from the Office for National Statistics released earlier this year that found that 319 students had taken their own lives between  2017 and 2020, with 64 deaths in 2019/20 alone, – a suicide every five days.

Labour say if they were in power, they would ensure young people can access mental health support when they need it, and receive treatment within a month.

They have pledged that the party would also recruit more mental health staff, including 8,500 by the end of a first term, as well as place specialist mental health support in every school, and establish mental health hubs for children and young people in every community without the need for referral.

“The UK’s young people are continuing to feel the brunt of this Conservative Government’s policies over the last 12 years," Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow mental health minister, said. 

“The lack of mental health support for young people, not only affects their health, but has a knock-on impact on their future prospects. With a difficult winter looming, the Government must get a grip on mental health services.

“This Conservative Government continues to fail future generations – they need to get a grip of the mental health crisis – it’s costing lives.”

Labour said they sent FOIs to 134 UK universities in June this year, and get 90 responses revealing how many students at each institution had sought mental health support since 2010.

The three universities with the largest increase over the past decade are the University of Winchester, up 362.70%, Edinburgh Napier University, up 324.24%, and Loughborough University up 304.23%.

In response a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Mental health and wellbeing support, including suicide prevention, is of paramount importance throughout students’ time at university which is why we asked the Office for Students to allocate £15million towards student mental health this year.

“We expect all universities to engage actively with suicide prevention and, working with partners like Universities UK, the mental health charter has led to tangible action – including a new dataset which will better inform universities’ prevention work.”

The government said the funding has helped includes close gaps between university and NHS services in addition to funding for Student Space – a mental health and wellbeing hub which over 275,000 students have accessed since its launch in 2020.

The spokesperson added: “These and other provisions are helping to remove the stigma around reporting mental health concerns, enabling more students to seek help when they need it.”

If you have concerns about your mental health you can call the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123, on find out other ways to contact them here

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