Hundreds of students in Dundee have sought counselling for stress and depression brought on by academic and emotional pressures.
Details of suicide prevention and mental health work undertaken by Dundee and Abertay universities have been revealed on a website that tracks national freedom of information inquiries.
Abertay’s counselling service saw one in 20 of the student body during 2008/09, the year covered by its most recent annual report, with a near doubling to 39 in the number of “on-the-day” appointments to deal with crises.
The figures for Dundee University’s service showed several dozen students disclosing mental health issues and others seeking help for problems including self-harm and eating disorders.
The university also said that over a five-year period it had trained more than 1100 students and staff in suicide awareness, with more than 60 gaining more sophisticated suicide intervention skills.
Stress and depression are among the most common feelings that cause people to ask for help.
The National Union of Students Scotland has been campaigning to promote good mental health and tackle the negative attitudes that often surround illnesses.WellbeingIts aim is to have “a healthy, happy student population across Scotland, but even more so, we want a student population that can talk openly and without concern about their mental wellbeing.”
Among the problems students face are separation from family and friends, financial and employment pressures and, for older students, difficulties in combining studying with supporting a family.
Tragically, some students can find the pressures too much and take their own lives.
In response to a freedom of information query, Dundee University disclosed it had recorded two suicides in 2004/05 and another one in 2008/09.
It said, “Student Services aims to educate as many members of the university and wider community as possible to promote positive mental health and wellbeing and identify and respond quickly to distress and ill health, as both strands are important in terms of suicide prevention.”
During 2008/09 more than 30 people were seen by the university’s mental health nurse.
Just over 100 students sought counselling over stress and anxiety, with another 60 suffering depression. Smaller numbers had problems with self-harm, eating disorders and drug or alcohol issues.
Abertay said it did not record the cause of death of any students, so it could not say how many, if any, had been suicides in recent years.
While the university does not have a specific policy on suicide prevention, it does have a number of policies and procedures aimed at supporting the health, safety and mental wellbeing of students.AcceptanceIts counselling and mental health service had more than 200 clients during 2008/09, a 15% increase on the previous year and the equivalent of 5% of the student body.
The service’s annual report said, “This demonstrates a growing acceptance in the use of counselling to help students manage the difficulties they are experiencing. Much difficulty is ameliorated by receiving help sooner rather than later.”
Anxiety was the most common reason for Abertay students to ask for aid, followed by academic worries and depression. Other issues raised during counselling sessions included addictive behaviour, abuse, sexual issues and problems with relationships.
The university surveyed clients to see how they felt about the service they received. The encouraging response was that 98% said they would recommend counselling to a friend and 96% that it helped their life as a whole.
Some 87% said it had helped them stay at university, with around 70% saying that it had helped them complete their course or do better than they would otherwise have done.
One of the students who went through counselling said, “I was encouraged to develop awareness of myself, my problems and my surroundings, which enabled me to find a way out of my problems, with support.”
The report said the survey results were “a very clear demonstration of the benefits of counselling to retention and student success.”
Photo used under the Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user Michael Clesle.