Data published this week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 1,180 students who experienced mental health issues left university early in 2014-15. This represents a 210% increase from 2009-10 when this group numbered just 380. Commentators in the media have cited increasing pressure on young people in the form of tuition fees, academic demands, the influence of social media and an increasingly competitive employment market as reasons for this.

Also published this week was a report by Unite Students entitled ‘Student resilience: Exploring the positive case for resilience’, which looks at areas of higher education that would benefit from further development of resilience approaches. In giving a clearer definition the term’s significance and application, and by providing a set of practical recommendations on implementation, the report represents a welcome step towards improving student wellbeing and tackling existing issues highlighted by the HESA’s data.

Caroline Hounsell, Director of Product Development, Partnerships and Training, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England commented: “A recent NUS poll of over 1,000 students found that almost eight out of ten had experienced mental health issues over a one year period. Together with this week’s HESA data, these statistics are testament to a need to ensure we are better supporting young people through what can be a time of change and upheaval in their lives.

"These statistics are testament to a need to ensure we are better supporting young people through what can be a time of change and upheaval in their lives."

"Encouraging proactive approaches to resilience, both at the level of the individual and the organisation can be a crucial part of prevention. Wellbeing strategies should be a central part of organisational approaches to health and safety, and policies on resilience, in turn, should be a key part of these strategies. To this end, this week’s report from Unite Students provides some much needed recommendations for improving approaches to building resilience in higher education.”

MHFA England will soon launch its Higher Education MHFA One Day course as part of the efforts to address unmet needs around staff and student wellbeing. To find out more about Higher Education MHFA visit mhfaengland.org.