Mental Health and Wellbeing
Policy passed by NUS Scotland Conference 2022
What is the issue facing students?
The pandemic impacted students in many ways, from changes in their educational experience to drastic deterioration in their mental health.
The impact the pandemic has had on students will impact them in the future as well.
In late 2021, the Thriving Learners survey results revealed that from the 15,000 students surveyed from all 19 Scottish universities, 74% reported low well-being. Almost half (45%) said that they had experienced a serious psychological issue they felt needed professional help. The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) published a report alongside the survey results recommending more government support towards mental health, calling for student wellbeing to become a measure of success for all universities in the country, to increase Scottish Government funding for focused wellbeing support, and for all universities to undertake further research and training to understand the impact of trauma on student mental health.
Students must be supported and empowered to thrive both in FEI and HEI. When transitioning into FE and further into HE, students need support and opportunities to develop a range of skills, as well as ongoing mental health support and resources.
Why is it important to us as a movement?
Scottish Institutions face a lack of adequate Mental health and wellbeing provisions and services offered to students. These services are severely underfunded and at some institutions almost non-existent. This means that students are unable to get appropriate support. Understaffed services have led to students waiting for months for an appointment at many institutions. The lack of gender, ethnic and cultural diversity within the service staff has also created barriers for our diverse range of students to seek help and comfortably share their issues.
During the pandemic, additional funding was allocated to FEI and HEI to support student mental health and wellbeing. However, as this was an additional funding, it is uncertain whether it will continue to be available to institutions. Thus, once again putting student mental health on the back-burner. As the factors that contribute to student mental health are diverse, some can often be overlooked. Things such as finances, support, health, housing, studies and family/social life, are an important part of the student experience, and should be taken into account holistically when conversations about mental health resources and funding are had.
We believe that mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority for all FE and HE institutions. A proactive approach should be adapted by the institutions where mental health and wellbeing becomes a part of the overall student experience and students build up skills and resilience. Gone are the days when reactive intervention is of service.
What would the world look like if we changed it?
The Scottish Government should immediately prioritise the allocation of adequate additional funding to all Colleges and Universities in Scotland as part of the annual SFC funding. The funding should aim to enhance the mental health and wellbeing services offered to the students of Scotland.
The Scottish Funding Council designating adequate additional funding for Mental Health and Wellbeing services to Universities and Colleges every year can help tackle the much-needed attention required towards the student Mental Health and Wellbeing crisis in Scotland. With sufficient funding, institutions can enhance their Mental Health and Wellbeing services as well as increase the number of professional staff employed. This would help in cutting down appointment waiting times and radically improve the quality of support being offered to the students of Scotland.
Student mental health and wellbeing has been a topic, that we’ve been talking about for years. It is finally no longer a hidden one and with students reaching out, we must ensure that the services available to them are adequate and don’t get cut again. The option of funding being reduced puts students at risk.