This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now but I’ve struggled on how to approach the topic. The intensity and direction of my thoughts about student mental health changes daily, along with my good days and bad days. One thing that does however remain constant for me is the demoralising feeling that we are continually being failed as a generation.
Some days I feel optimistic about the fact that, on the whole, society seems to be talking more about the spiralling issue of poor mental health. It keeps me hoping that surely soon enough someone somewhere with the power required to call the current university mental health services into reformation will slam down their hand on the despatch box in the house of parliament and condemn this un-ac-cep-ta-ble state of students’ deteriorating wellbeing. Surely then something will have to give. Universities will be left no choice but to listen to their students’ suffering, they won’t just ‘want to do better’, they will actually do better. But then there are days where I can only see the present reality. Where 146 students killed themselves in 2016, where multiple of my closest friends have suffered with depression and developed anxiety during the so called best years of their lives, where mental health is whittled down to the state of the whole university system: a business. I see mine and many others’ realities, where fewer of us are happy and increasingly less convinced that a degree is really worth the while.
It’s easy to see why so many students have lost confidence in student services. When it comes to our mental health we are treated like customers who need to be served quickly and strictly according to generic protocol. We are customers who are squeezed into model care plans rather than having time invested into building relationships and trust. Where as long as student satisfaction rates do not affect universities’ overall ranking on league tables, the topic of student wellbeing can be hushed.
As long as universities continue to treat their students as customers purchasing a standard-fit education with no extra support packages, students will continue to suffer in silence or without truly addressing the root of their pain. And as long as universities are more preoccupied with their performance and reputation, student wellbeing will only be scratched on the surface. No one wants to delve into an issue that hasn’t got a quick fix or appealing statistics but if no one truly wants to tackle the issue now, the damage done may be far beyond future reparations.