Studies have shown that students are at greater risk of developing mental health problems more than any other demographic, and in recent years, an unprecedented number of students have opted to tragically take their own life than suffer what they’re going through, making student mental health a more pressing issue than ever before.
Whilst stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it greatly effects mental health, often proving to be the source of anxiety and even depression, and university is a very stressful time for most students.
More and more universities are acknowledging this growing issue, expanding their student support services and encouraging students to speak out, but why is student mental health becoming more of an issue when it wasn’t so much so in the past?
1. Increasing Academic Pressure
Record amounts of students are attending university in the twenty first century, with UCAS releasing stats that show around 26% of all 18 year old’s in Britain are going onto higher education – about 400,000 students annually.
This is a massive increase in comparison to the previous century where higher education wasn’t the go-to rite of passage for young people as it is today.
As a result of this mass influx, many young people go through A Levels and onto Higher Education under the belief that it is the best and perhaps the only way for them to reach their potential and be successful, meaning there is immediately more pressure and expectations on their shoulders.
University is now considered more standard and admission is no longer as lucrative as it once was, which invariably means expectations increase and students feel as though if they’re struggling or not quite doing as well as others at uni, then they must be failing.
This, “must go to university” mentality, and, “must do well at university just like everyone else” mentality, means academic pressure on students has never been higher, especially since the high amount of undergraduates increases competitiveness for jobs, making it a serious factor for the rise in student mental health concerns since many may be struggling to cope with this pressure.
2. Increasing Student Expectations
In a similar vein, taking the mass influx of students into consideration, more and more students are going to uni with higher expectations than ever.
Now that University has become more standardised, students are expecting University to be the dream that graduates, the media, and the universities themselves, all makes it out to be.
Now, ask the the majority of students and chances are most of them will tell you that they’ve had the time of their lives, but that’s only after they’ve settled in and graduated after 3 years of uni life.
No one talks about the fact that sometimes it doesn’t go to plan, and initially it can be a real struggle to settle in.
Students go to university expecting everything to go smoothly and to start having the time of their lives straight away, when all too often this simply isn’t the case.
Whether it’s not getting on with your course, the people you’re living with, or the feel of the city and the university campus, expectations can easily fall well short of the mark, because every university is different and every student has a different experience.
When these high expectations are let down, it can greatly affect a student’s mentality, believing that they’re the only ones who aren’t enjoying university, increasing feelings of isolation and failure if they’re not settling in as fast as it everyone else appears to be.
3. Increasing Social Pressure
Along the same lines, with so much hype around the social life that comes with University, there is an increased pressure on young people to be as social as everyone else when they might not feel comfortable doing so.
Everyone at uni comes from different classes, areas, and backgrounds, which means it might be more of a struggle for some to get on with others and meet the social expectations that university automatically places on new students, which could fuel feelings of self-doubt and in-adequateness that damages a student’s mentality.
4. Feeling as though you can’t speak out
Taking the previous three points into account, all of the expectations and pressures of university collectively makes speaking out about feelings at university seem even more daunting in the mind of a student.
This is because it seems as though everyone else is happy and getting on just fine whilst you’re the only one who isn’t, so students are finding it difficult to speak out more than ever before, becoming more of a taboo than ever.
Internalising such anxieties and feelings can then be disastrous to one’s mental health, especially with University being such a crucial and demanding time.
University’s are currently making great strides to encourage students to speak out, but it is reasons like these that have made student health concerns more of an issue and has unfortunately led to a number of students in recent years tragically taking their own lives whilst at University.
It’s an issue that needs to be talked about.