Here at Study International, we are trying to open up a dialogue about student mental health. Considering 75 percent of lifetime cases of mental health conditions arise before the person reaches 24, one in four 18 to 24-year-olds have a diagnosable mental illness, and more than a quarter of college students are diagnosed or treated for mental health conditions annually, it is paramount we acknowledge it.
And we are not alone. As we try to help break the stigma, people all over the world are working to eliminate the silence surrounding mental illness at university.
Counselling Directory member, Dr Charlie Howard is a consultant clinical psychologist who specialises in the mental health of young adults. She assesses, treats and advises young people on mental health issues. According to Howard, not enough is being done.
“University can be a challenging time for students, especially those who are starting for the first time and/or moving from abroad,” she told Study International.
“It often involves moving away from what’s familiar and this can be hard. It’s also at a time when students are needing to make new friends, perhaps do things for themselves for the first time and being separated from family.
“This can do all sorts of things to our mental health and needs to be recognised and talked about,” she said.
Slowly, we are lessening the stigma around mental illness.
“There is more awareness than there used to be but there needs to be more,” Howard claimed. “Mental health difficulties are disproportionately present in student populations.”
Students must lead the way but universities must follow
Howard claimed some students know what services are there to help, but too many do not.
The issue does not just stop there. She also said that even though some do know what is out there, they may not feel comfortable seeking the help they need.
She told Study International the type of help varies from university to university.
“The best interventions are often those designed and led by the students themselves because they know what they want and need,” said Howard.
Howard feels universities should do more of this. “We know that when mental health services are co-produced with those they seek to help, people are more likely to a) use them and b) find them effective.”
“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “But it doesn’t happen anywhere near enough.”