Addressing Stigma Associated with Accessing Student Mental Health Support

In research commissioned by UniHealth in 2018 (1), the UK’s first health and wellbeing
messaging platform for students, it revealed some distressing statistics. The new report,
based on a survey of over 1000 first and second year university students, revealed that 82%
of students at UK universities suffer from stress and anxiety and 45% have experienced
depression. More worrying still, 1 in 5 students have suicidal feelings. Yet only 25% of
students experiencing this said they would seek help – the other three quarters admitted
being too embarrassed, think it’s a waste of time, or don’t even know where to find help.
This was also confirmed in a study conducted at Kingston University in 2019 by a final year
undergraduate student project. In a focus group discussion, the session touched upon how
students feel about using university services and if they have any experience with using
them. No participants had used or considered using the mental health and emotional
wellbeing services the university provides. This is reflective of the national university
surveys explaining why students are hesitant to use mental health services. (2) Furthermore,
all participants explain they are uncomfortable discussing their anxieties to a health expert
for fear of being judged. Due to this, they would prefer talking to their friends or to those
they are familiar with. This may include a lecturer or a personal tutor in the university.
Recently I presented research results about integrating the SEJ into the Professional and
Academic Skills module as an intervention to support student’s transition to HEI at an
internal CPD event. This was a mandatory participation for students to acquire a lifelong
transferrable skill which they can take beyond their university life into employment.
Rather than offering post-stress treatment, it would be more effective to have a
preventative and individualised tool that students can use before the symptoms become
unmanageable or life threatening. This would also alleviate students who feel unable to
address their mental health wellbeing due to the perceived stigma.
The results of this study found that, the SEJ was shown to be a core transferable skill to
learn in empowering students during their transition to HEI. Students can apply the SEJ
process in the moment, adaptable in all situations, unique to the individual, without
external intervention. This helps to remove the stigma, or a reliance on overburdened
services with delayed waiting times.
References:
(1) Lisa Veiber at King’s College London (University of London) The National Student 31st August
2017
https://www.thenationalstudent.com/Student/201731/82_of_students_suffer_from_stress_and_an
xiety.html
(2)Pereira S, Reay K, Bottell J, Walker L, Dzikiti C, Platt C, et al. The Insight Network. [Online].; 2019
[cited 2020 February 5. Available from: https://uploads-
ssl.webflow.com/561110743bc7e45e78292140/5c7d4b5d314d163fecdc3706_Mental%20Health%20
Report%202018.pdf

Dr M Howard-Kishi

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