Mental Health Disorders In Higher Education

Moving away from home and being independent of your parents for the first time can be challenging. The age span of 16-24 years old is essentially the transition from adolescence to adulthood and is a high risk period for mental health disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

64% of the University student population is between 16 and 24 years old, and this increases to 83% if you count undergraduates only.  Because of this, students span an age range where a wide spectrum of mental illness is seen.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a study by NHS Digital and the University of Exeter found that 13% of young men and 27% of young women between 17 and 22 years had a mental health disorder. This report shows an increase in the rate of mental health problems, especially among young women.

What Is Meant By Mental Illness?

 Mental illness can be thought of as how we think, feel and behave. There are many contributing factors that can impact one’s mental health, such as;

  • Genetics – brain chemistry and biological factors.
  • Life experiences, post-traumatic stress or abuse.
  • Family history of mental health problems.

With the correct support and coping methods, people who suffer from mental illness can be mentally well. And likewise, people without mental illness can experience very poor mental wellbeing in challenging circumstances where they don’t have the correct support.

Common Mental Health Disorders Among Students.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • ADHD/Attention Deficit Disorder
  • High levels of substance misuse

The impact on studies

A recent report from Randstad gives us some interesting statistics on student mental health in 2020.

  • 37% of students report deteriorating mental health.
  • In 2019 55% of students surveyed said they had considered leaving their course and dropping out of university. The top 3 reasons for this were mental health issues, not being able to cope with the stress and not feeling like the got the support they needed.

However mental health doesn’t just result in students dropping out, it can also negatively affect:

  • Performance
  • Attendance
  • Relationships
  • Wellbeing


What is being done to help?

In the above example of the 55% of students who had considered leaving their course, 71% of them said that the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) had given them the support and confidence needed to stick at it. 96% of students who received DSA support said they would recommend it to others.

For students with mental health problems the weekly meeting with the same Specialist mentor for the duration of their course can be invaluable. In a recent training webinar by Optimum Student Support a mentor told a story of how one of her students had gifted her the only ticket to their graduation ceremony.  A lovely gesture and it helps to illustrate how the student felt about their mentoring support.

There is still some way to go though in increasing awareness around the Disabled Students Allowance and mental health as a whole.  In 2019 the BBC reported that due to confusion over what was meant as a disability and poor awareness meant that 60% of students who would be eligible for the DSA had never heard of it.  A lot of people aren’t aware that disability refers to anything that has a negative impact on how someone carries out day to day tasks, which includes mental illness.

We try our best to raise awareness through our blog and social media pages. If you are student reading this and you do feel like you struggle with mental health you may be entitled to the DSA. Click here to read more about DSA funding and the DSA assessment process.

This article was created from notes taken at an online webinar by Optimum Student Support and this Randstad Report.


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