67% of Leeds students said they battled with suicidal thoughts, is the uni doing enough to help?

The number of students seeking support is on the rise

Over 500 students took The Tab’s mental health survey, with over two thirds of that number saying they had battled with suicidal thoughts. The demand for counselling amongst Leeds University students is on the rise. There’s been an increase from 1,157 to 1,338 students attending individual counselling between 2010 and 2015, but there are still many who have been told that free counselling is not an immediate option to them.

All universities are legally obliged to offer a duty-of-care for students, and the university provides personal tutors, group classes and pastoral workers by department. However, the general opinion is that one-on-one counselling should be more widely available to make students feel they can build a relationship with someone they trust and rely on for help.

67 per cent of students have battled with suicidal thoughts

In a survey conducted by The Tab, over half of those who participated said they were struggling with depression, or had done in the past. A shocking 67 per cent said they battled with suicidal thoughts, 25 per cent of students developed depression at Leeds.  79 per cent said their mental health issues affected their attendance, while only 14 per cent of the students were comfortable seeking help from the university.

When asked if the university handled mental health difficulties well, only 18 per cent said they were satisfied, while the majority thought it was average. 27 per cent of students said they did not seek help through counselling, while 31 per cent did not seek any help from the university at all. Less than 10 per cent said they felt satisfied with the counselling service provided.

“Mental health support should be more advised”

One student said even though they had not personally battled with mental health issues, their friends said the support at university was “was good for dealing with the situation”. One student told us: “Mental health support should be more advised”, and there were specific complaints about the treatment of self-harm. Another declared that due to “the lack of support, I have now given up on completing my degree”.

The biggest problem raised, however, seems to be the efficiency and effectiveness of the Leeds Student Counselling Service. One student shared their experience:

“I went to the Leeds Student Medical Practice for help and was told I needed to refer myself. Once I referred myself (and having to tell three separate people about my problems) I am finally on the waiting list to get help. That waiting list is six months long. I’m going to have graduated by this time.”

They summed up their experience as being “appalling”.

54 per cent increase in young people on anti-depressants

There has been a 54 per cent increase in young people on anti-depressants between 2005 and 2012, which begs the question, why is more not being done to provide counselling?  The World Health Organisation’s director of mental health, Dr Shekhar Saxena, sees this increase as a “matter of concern”.

Jeanette Hannah, the mental health team manager at Leeds, said: “The waiting list on campus for any of the support teams has never been six months and at worst may have been six weeks”. She went on to say: “Services on campus are by far more responsive than the external services with compatible counselling services having a 12-month waiting list”, adding “University is not a replacement for the NHS but more so an enhancement”.

When contacted for a statement, the university said: “We agree that mental health and wellbeing is an incredibly important issue which the University and Leeds University Union takes very seriously, and we are sorry if students feel that they have experienced difficulties with accessing our support.

“We are doing a great deal of work together to offer dedicated teams and tailored support, and we have received some very positive feedback about these services, including being voted in the top 10 UK universities in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey for the welfare support we offer our students.

“We are still working hard to improve the scope of support available and we encourage students to also make full use of other support services offered by the University and externally.

“If anyone has any specific worries about the service or wants to discuss their concerns about the support available, we’d really advise them to contact us directly”.

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