Hundreds and thousands of young people begin brand new chapters in their educational lives each and every year when they make an appearance at colleges and universities throughout the country.
This is an exceptional crucial and valuable moment of great opportunities and occasions for new students. Most young people are leaving their homes, family, friends and social networks behind to start a new life at college or university.
Universities and colleges play a crucial and essential role in making the time students spend in the establishments fulfilling and rewarding.
Especially because of the massive number of students who come through the university and college doors. It certainly should not be surprising to anyone that the demand for support within mental health is increasing.
Looking at what’s happening at universities and colleges vividly illustrates the extent of the activity taking place across the country. Initiatives are taking place around the county to other support to students in educational establishments, especially within areas in Scotland.
This ranges from providing information to students when they first arrive, to creating places for them to access support and shaping a supportive culture that gives them the confidence to raise issues with others. The establishments also are investing in new ways to use data to better understand how students engage in life on campus.
One of the most pressing issues this work has highlighted is the need to bring organisations together to provide a network of support for undergraduates. In many cases, when students leave home they will also be leaving therapeutic support networks that they are used to – from young people’s mental health services to a new GP.
This places universities and colleges in a position of providing support and direction to students, often without a full understanding of their history. It’s a major challenge, and we need to work with the NHS and partners to bridge these gaps.
Listening to students
In the face of this complexity, it is inspiring to hear the views of students themselves, who are best able to convey an understanding of what is needed. Those who have joined discussions with us support the improvements we are making and have been clear about the issues they face.
They have ambitions, but are disproportionately affected by the cost of housing, the jobs market, the environment and the uncertainty of their futures. Many are understandably unhappy at being termed ‘snowflakes’ when they speak about their concerns.
Given these changing pressures, it is clear that the way they are being supported through their mental health and wellbeing must adapt change too and that is what many universities are looking to deliver.
As thousands of new students leave home for the first time, in scenes that will be replicated across the country, their mental health will be seen as everyone’s responsibility.
Tackling an issue as complex will not be achieved by a single measure or statement. It must be seen a team effort. If educational establishments are able to work together and listen to students, they stand a better chance of achieving success.