University data obtained by the ex-health minister Norman lamb reveals that UK students are having to wait up to 12 weeks to access mental health care, prompting fears that some may take their own lives during the delay.
According to the statistics, undergrads at the Royal College of Music in London saw the longest waits, with some members of the student body having to wait 84 days to see someone.
Commenting on the data, which was obtained based on responses to Freedom of Information requests, Sir Norman Lamb said such severe delays could prove fatal and seriously damaging for those suffering with anxiety and depression.
‘Twelve-week delays to start counselling are scandalous, particularly when we know that so many students are taking their own lives…That’s longer than a university term’, he said.
‘It’s extraordinary that some universities are subjecting students to such long waits and failing their student populations so badly.’
On the responsibility universities have towards providing care for their students Lamb continued:
‘Universities with these long waiting times need to remember that students suffering from mental health conditions very often need help as a matter of real urgency. The risk is that their mental welfare will decline even further while they wait and wait for care and support.’
The damning findings come as hundreds of thousands of young people prepare to start their degree courses up and down the country.
With mental health firmly now in the public eye and despite the growing demand for care throughout the country’s academic institutions, one in four universities have cut or frozen their budgets for mental health, found Lamb’s data.
Other institutions who didn’t fair well included Edinburgh Napier University (57 days) the Royal College of Art in London (56 days), Bournemouth University (44 days in the term until December 2018), and the University of Salford (42 days).
The average delay time of 52 days was reported at the University of Bristol where 12 of its students have died of suicide or suspected suicide over the last three years alone.
In response to Lamb’s findings, Tom Madders, campaigns director at the charity YoungMinds, said:
‘It is very worrying that there is considerable variation in the level of mental health support offered at universities around the country. Counselling for students should not be a postcode lottery.
‘Many young people start university expecting to have the time of their lives. But for some it can be a stressful experience: moving away from home, financial difficulties, problems with your course, making new friends and changes to your support network can all pile on the pressure.’
Though damning, Lamb did find progress by some UK universities with many increasing the number of counselors they employ to combat wait times.
Lamb’s data comes as a new report drafted by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Unite Students found that one in four UK students say they often, or always feel, lonely.
The findings which argues loneliness is now ‘endemic’ among UK freshers reveals that first year undergrads who do experience loneliness are becoming increasingly more unsatisfied with uni life.
In comparison to previous years, students are now less likely to go to a party, the SU or share a meal and admit that they feel that their ‘life is not worthwhile’ than their more social peers, the study found.
In direct comparison to Sir Norman Lamb’s findings, the report also showed that the proportion of students who say they have a mental health condition has risen from 12% in 2016 to 17% this year – that’s more than a one in six rise.
Of the 2,500 applicants and 2,500 first year students surveyed, less than a quarter admitted that they trusted their university to provide the adequate mental health care they sought.
Making friends during Fresher’s Week also came under fire with current students admitting that they view university as a gradual transition into adult life, and argue there is no longer any need for hyped up ‘friends making’ activities like Fresher’s Week.
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