Majority of students experience mental health issues, says NUS survey

The survey, released as MPs meet to discuss student mental health, also shows 54% don’t seek help

Eight out of 10 students (78%) say they experienced mental health issues in the last year, according to a survey by the National Union of Students (NUS).

A third of the respondents (33%) also said they had had suicidal thoughts. Among those who did not identify as heterosexual, the figure was higher at 55%.

The NUS surveyed 1,093 students in further and higher education in November and December on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on students.

More than half (54%) of respondents who reported having experienced mental health problems said they did not seek support. A third said they would not know where to get mental health support from at their college or university if they needed it, while 40% reported being nervous about the support they would receive from their institution.

Aoife Inman, 19, a second-year student at the University of Manchester, said: “I think mental health issues are extremely common among students but it’s something not many people want to acknowledge or accept that they are suffering from.

“University was pitched to me as ‘the best years of your life’ and there is definitely an anxiety among young people to live up to that expectation. For those of us who struggle with mental illness at university you can feel constant disappointment for not fitting the student stereotype.”

University can actually be a highly isolating environment, she said: “Moving away from home and the securities of that environment means that students are often left without a safety blanket if we begin to struggle.”

Maddy Kirkman, disabled students’ officer for the NUS, said: “These findings are deeply concerning, and reaffirm the stark challenges that persist around providing effective support to students in universities and colleges.

“Alongside the impact of funding cuts to student support, including maintenance grants and the disabled students’ allowance, this shows a worrying lack of concern for students living with mental health issues.”

The publication of the research comes on the same day that MPs and peers will discuss student mental health in parliament. The event, coordinated by the APPG on students, will look at the issues raised through the research, and at what colleges, universities and others can do to better respond to students’ mental health needs.

Paul Blomfield MP, chair of the APPG on students and MP for Sheffield Central, which has the highest proportion of students in the country, said: “Our colleges and universities should be places of educational and personal development, where students feel supported. But these findings show us that significant numbers of students are suffering with mental health problems, many of them silently.

“These survey results are a wake-up call to all of us concerned with student welfare. MPs and peers from across the political spectrum will come together this afternoon to discuss what can be done.”

Keep up with the latest on Guardian Students: follow us on Twitter at @GdnStudents – and become a member to receive exclusive benefits and our weekly newsletter.


Natalie Gil

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Who helps students with mental health problems?

University counselling services are the first port of call for students in the grip of anxiety or depression – but will they survive funding cuts?

Rebecca Ratcliffe

05, Apr, 2012 @12:22 PM

Article image
Students stay silent about mental health problems, survey shows

One in five suffer psychological ill health, but most shun university counselling

Rebecca Ratcliffe

20, May, 2013 @4:59 PM

Article image
Students to laugh, tweet and bounce on university mental health day

Students at over 40 universities will raise awareness about how to seek help with mental health problems

Abby Young-Powell

18, Feb, 2014 @4:35 PM

Article image
Youth mental health: is the government doing enough?
Young people struggle to find help with mental health problems – there is a lack of understanding and funding, they say

Natalie Gil

20, Mar, 2015 @10:17 AM

Article image
Students: share your stories of mental health at university
Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are common among students, but they're a hidden part of university life. Share your experiences to help us show the real picture

Libby Page and Guardian readers

31, Mar, 2014 @9:38 AM

Article image
Lonely in freshers week? You're not the only one

Despite the cliche that university is the best time of your life, many experience freshers' blues

Will Coldwell

19, Sep, 2012 @3:24 PM

Article image
How university stopped me hating my face

I was trapped in self-loathing and thought I was hideous, writes a student blogger. University life changed the way I saw myself and the world


16, Jul, 2013 @8:54 AM

Article image
How to cope with mental health difficulties at university
Mental health difficulties are common among students at university. Family and friends can can play an important role in helping support them

Ruth Hardy

25, Feb, 2015 @11:13 AM

Article image
How to support your friend with their mental health

Listen, do your research and don't forget to look after yourself

Seb Baird

10, May, 2014 @9:00 AM

Article image
Students: where to get help for your mental health

Many students experience mental health problems at university – here are some resources that could help

Libby Page

04, Apr, 2014 @11:38 AM