As universities and colleges prepare for the start of the new term, one major talking point continues to dominate the headlines: mental health support for students.
Prior to the summer break, research laid bare the extent of the challenges facing further education institutions in their attempts to provide adequate student counselling services.
A ‘perfect storm’ of issues drive high demand for student counselling
Universities and colleges face a perfect storm of factors which have contributed to an overwhelming demand for on-campus student counselling and support services.
In our experience, substance issues, addiction, depression and financial worries are the problems students typically have to deal with at university or college. Relationships are also a significant concern. University or college is often when individuals establish their first significant and emotionally important relationships.
The complex challenges facing students
Now, however, additional pressures on students are creating overwhelming demand. Which in turn is putting the resources of education establishments under serious strain.
Difficult labour market conditions mean students are increasingly competing for a limited number of graduate placements. This is further compounded by budget squeezes across the board for universities, colleges and students themselves.
The net result: student counselling and support services are struggling to cope.
Short-term solutions needed for student counselling
A particularly troubling statistic has been the increase in student suicides. Between 2007 and 2016 student suicides increased by a staggering 56%. Students are now more likely to take their own lives than young people in the general population.
Combined with the challenges NHS trusts are facing in coping with rising demand across the board for mental health support, alternative short-term solutions for student counselling are needed.
Making better use of the third sector
A number of universities, however, are recognising the importance of providing students with secondary sources of support. Institutions including Strathclyde University and Aberdeen University are signposting students to external services such as The Spark for student counselling and mental health support.
Third sector providers like The Spark are well-placed to support universities and colleges in the provision of mental health services. With extensive geographical reach – The Spark has locations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire and Stirling – these organisations can complement existing on-campus student counselling services.
Collaboration between the third sector and further education is now essential
In many instances, the expertise of third sector providers is an ideal match for the challenges students face. Beyond the typical stress of exams and deadlines, students now need to handle a more diverse range of issues than ever before.
Longer term more must be done by universities and colleges to expand on-campus student counselling services. However in the short-term, external providers such as The Spark offer effective, complementary mental health services.
Counselling and support services for students
The Spark has counselling centres across Scotland and many are located close to the country’s leading universities and colleges. Offering counselling to individuals and couples, our counsellors are experienced in supporting students and young people.
Contact us via our enquiry form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.