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University of Edinburgh hits record number of students seeking counselling services

ByRachel Whitford

Mar 21, 2016

A study into mental health at 24 of the UK’s top universities has found that the number of students seeking counselling has increased from 34,000 to 43,000 in just three years.

In all the universities surveyed, the University of Edinburgh saw the largest increase in students pursuing counselling services with figures rising by 75 per cent in the three year period, with a 15 per cent increase in the last year alone.

In an interview with The Student in February, Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) Vice President Societies and Activities Andy Peel said the counselling service received one hundred referrals a week.

Anxiety was the most common reason for attending counselling services, with more than 6000 students reporting to suffer from the condition.

However, the number of students who experience mental health issues is thought to be much higher than the number of those receiving counselling.

In a survey conducted in December by the National Union of Students (NUS), a body representing UK university student unions, it was reported that almost eight out of every ten students have experienced mental health issues in the past year.

The NUS released a statement that suggested that the rise was due to a new “marketisation of education”.

“The value of education has moved away from societal value to ‘value for money’ and the emphasis on students competing against each other is causing isolation, stress and anxiety,” the statement read.

The surge in the number of students seeking counselling coincides with the recent increase in tuition fees from £3000 a year to £9000.

Jonny Ross-Tatam, President of the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA), spoke to The Student about the issue, saying: “these are anxious times for students.”

He added: “There are pressures with a difficult labour market, rising rent and living costs and rising debt. This is an issue for students across our university, including those paying international fees and those (Scottish and EU students) paying no tuition fees at all.”

“The University must keep investing in counselling and also invest in other ways of supporting mental health before they need professional help,” he continued.

He added that EUSA had made student mental health its “top priority”.

“This year we have secured a commitment from the University to train all 1300 Personal tutors in mental health first aid and we will look to do the same with our 500 Peer Support leaders,” Ross-Tatam said. “We also provided nearly £10,000 in funding for student mental health initiatives, launched our #LetsTalk awareness campaign and have helped secure funding for extra student counselling space. We are currently negotiating much-needed funding for more University counsellors.”

EUSA’s “#LetsTalk” campaign was launched last month during University of Edinburgh Mental Health and Wellbeing Week and aimed to encourage students to open up about their mental health with hopes of diminishing the stigma surrounding it.

“We need a mental health support network that spans our university community, from counsellors to personal tutors and our peers,” Ross-Tatam added.

Image credit: Hawthorne Gospel Church

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