mental health care
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UK university students waiting up to three months for mental health care

Students at universities in the UK are being forced to wait up to three months for mental health care from their institution.

TW: Suicide

Research conducted by ex-health minister Sir Norman Lamb has revealed that students with mental health problems have to wait up to 12 weeks for mental health care, prompting fears that some may take their own lives during the delay.

Students at the Royal College of Music had to wait 84 days for access to care which was the longest case out of the data collected from British universities.

Those at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London were seen in 1.2 days, which was the shortest wait among the 110 universities researched.

That average delay out of all of the universities that supplied data was seven-and-a-half weeks. This length of time was seen at the University of Bristol where mental health support has come under close scrutiny after the suicide or suspected suicide of 12 students there over the last three years.

Sir Norman Lamb said: “Twelve-week delays to start counselling are scandalous, particularly when we know that so many students are taking their own lives. That’s longer than a university term.

“It’s extraordinary that some universities are subjecting students to such long waits and failing their student populations so badly.

“Universities with these long waiting times need to remember that students suffering from mental health conditions very often need help as a matter of real urgency. The risk is that their mental welfare will decline even further while they wait and wait for care and support.”

Universities with these long waiting times need to remember that students suffering from mental health conditions very often need help as a matter of real urgency

– Sir Norman Lamb

The news comes after an inquest into the death of a 19-year-old student opened on Monday. Whilst studying at Liverpool University, Ceara Thacker took her own life in May 2018 after her mental health deteriorated.

Whilst some universities, such as Bristol, Kingston and Sussex are spending £1 million on mental health provisions, others have a budget of less than half of that. Many universities have cut or frozen their budgets for mental health.

Tom Madders, campaigns director at the charity YoungMinds, said: “It is very worrying that there is considerable variation in the level of mental health support offered at universities around the country. Counselling for students should not be a postcode lottery.

“Many young people start university expecting to have the time of their lives. But for some it can be a stressful experience: moving away from home, financial difficulties, problems with your course, making new friends and changes to your support network can all pile on the pressure.”

A spokesman for Universities UK said: “Funding to support mental health services at universities will vary depending on the needs of each student population.

“Universities cannot address these challenges alone. The NHS must provide effective mental health care to students, and Universities UK is working closely with NHS England to ensure that commitments in the NHS long-term plan are implemented.”

If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article, you can contact the University of Warwick’s Wellbeing Support Services, the Samaritans helpline at 116 123 or the Papyrus suicide prevention line at 0800 068 4141.

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