Unite Students has this week launched the ‘Everyone In’ report, as part of its 2017 Insight Series. The report is based on survey data collected from 6,578 students at universities across the UK. The survey itself has been running since 2013 and seeks to track and analyse the non-academic student experience.
This year’s report aimed to expand on the typical analysis by highlighting areas of difference and disadvantage for different groups of students including those who are disabled, lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups and lower-end socio-economic groups. Overall, it covers a wide range of areas such as accommodation, financial matters, social integration, retention, preparedness for work and mental health.
When it comes to mental health, the report is encouraging because it is showing that those who self-declare mental health issues are accessing and experiencing support which exceeded their expectations. However, it also reveals that those with mental health issues are less happy and more likely to think about dropping out. Of equal concern, it indicates serious issues with student disclosures around mental ill health; something which limits the ability of the university to support these students. As the report points out, remaining unknowns in this sense also means they are not afforded the protection provided by the Equality Act 2010.
Specifically, the data shows that on average around half of those with a mental health issue surveyed do not feel confident in seeking support from university counselling, NHS mental health services, university wellbeing services, mental health charities or peer-support groups.
Caroline Hounsell, Director and Higher Education Lead, MHFA England commented, “This week’s report further evidences the issues that we know exist around disclosure and retention for students with mental health issues. To me, this indicates a clear role for Mental Health First Aid in higher education communities.”
“Having well-advertised networks of staff and students who are trained to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide support on a first aid basis can greatly enhance a student’s confidence in feeling they can come forward to seek support. This means they then have a better chance of being guided to access the right support at the right time, be that self-help or professional services. The impact this can have in promoting quicker recovery and improving wellbeing in the long-term is invaluable.”