With increasingly, current concerns and issues around mental health, it is a huge one for university students. As it is known, it is not being addressed effectively and sufficiently during primary and secondary years, which in turn is causing even much greater issues when young adults are entering universities. If these students have not had any support or help then, then the older they get the harder it becomes for them to cope- especially as the demands and expectations are much greater. They have not had been equipped with the mindset nor tools or strategies to support them through the anxiety and stress pressures.

However, there is a shift happening, finally where it has been recognised that schools need to be doing much more and to honestly and truly educate children from a young age about mental health, giving them the skills to use strategies, tools and developing a better understanding and knowledge how mental health can affect them and those around them. And that the government’s agenda is to push student’s MH higher with more consistent support and intervention. This is great news and looks promising… Although, my question is where in the busy curriculum of secondary and primary education, are they going to fit this in? Which is where this needs to begin. Coming from the teaching background I know this can be very challenging and tricky. So for this to work something has to go…

Recent studies show us that at least half of school leavers go onto university and that is not even stating the percentage of how many of those are already suffering from mental health issues. What we do know from recent data is that a concerning number of newly enrolled university students arriving with mental health conditions. This is 5 times what is was 10 years ago. Furthermore, due to this there has been a tremendous number of students dropping out even before the first year is over. This shows us that universities are not addressing or supporting students to meet their needs. How on earth are they to become the strong resilient generation of the future if they haven’t been supported or been given the tools to help address stressful situations? Which no doubt they are going to, more so now than ever before.

Statistics from 2015/2016 reveal that over 15,000 of first-year students in the UK reported that they had MH problems. That is approx. 80% (12,000) more than 2006. How incredibly shocking is that?

Students are under so much pressure even before going into university and not only that many may already be suffering from mental health problems. This suggests, if majority of   these students entering will be at a much higher risk of server MH problems. Today’s students are truly faced with unique concerns and challenges than those in the past, for example when I was at university over 25 years ago. What they face now is the demands of higher expectations from academic results, family pressures to do well, unprecedented burdens from student loans, tuition fees, living accommodation costs but also the negative impact of this digital world we live in from technology to keeping up appearance on social media, and how this consequently has an enormous negative impact on their wellbeing.

Universities and Higher Educational institutes must seek to implement currently available programmes that can be consistently and effectively be put into place to address a wider commitment. In addition, a much more proactive approach must be taken by the government and NHS to ensure this.

It is by addressing students MH that can have a positive effect on MH in their later life, equipping them for challenges which they may face in the future, haven given the skills and tools to delay with these situations. By early intervention at a young person’s critical transition point in their lives, long-term risks associated with poor MH can be avoid which can therefore have less. Consequences for the future generation…

The key is to not shy away but encourage these students to talk, open up and yell for help and not be made to feel embarrassed or to admit that they might be struggling. “Toughen up, Man up”, all these metaphors are not doing them justice!

By Zeenat Noorani- Resilience Wellbeing Coach, NLP & Kinetic Shift Practitioner & Mental Health First Aider