We all need to be aware of the issues surrounding mental health. In higher education, it’s particularly important that we also act to make sure our learning environments are safe and secure for students with mental health conditions.
According to government statistics, between 2014/15 and 2019/20, the number of UK higher education students who reported having a mental health condition rose by more than 180%. This substantial increase highlights the importance of addressing mental health in higher education, in order to improve wellbeing and allow students to fulfil their potential.
Although awareness of mental health has grown in recent years, the pandemic has served to underline why it’s a such a pressing matter. Some experts are now referring to the current circumstances as representing a ‘mental health crisis’.
In November 2020, the UK charity Mind warned that mental health could represent a ‘second pandemic’, with data showing that on some days in October, the organisation’s helplines were seeing double the number of calls that would usually be received at that time of year.
The findings are a reminder that even as discussions continue over the easing of lockdowns, there is still plenty to do in order to ensure students are learning in a positive, safe environment.
Colleges and universities need to prioritise psychological support and counselling in order to make sure that students have easy access to mental health care professionals. We also need to create an open dialogue, in order to make discussing mental health issues easier.
In some cases, the additional focus on remote learning will make education more accessible for students with a mental health condition. However, it’s also important that for those who learn better in a classroom setting, that in person education returns as soon as possible, and remains accessible.
Being more aware of the issues around mental health is an important first step for us all to take. The next step is to make sure that everyone can openly discuss mental health. That way, we can ensure that all students who are experiencing a mental health condition can benefit from a productive, fruitful higher education experience.