Union Welfare tackles increasing mental health issues

Young people’s mental health is more at risk than ever according to research published by the Nuffield Foundation this month.

The research indicates that there has been a significant increase recently in the rate of teenagers suffering from anxiety, depression and behavioural problems, with the main causes include low job prospects, increasing fees and living costs.

Nightline offer a confidential listening and information service to students ©York Nightline

At the University of York, YUSU Welfare Officer Bob Hughes has focused on promoting and improving mental health services for students to combat this growing problem.

“This term and last, I ran several campaigns to try and de-stigmatise emotional wellbeing, such as a Living Library, which had a good number of students coming to learn more about the people and experiences behind some of the labels we associate with mental health,” he told The Yorker.

“Also, there was an art workshop to help people develop their emotional literacy, and feel more able to express their emotions, whilst also having a chance to relax."

Hughes also revealed there will be events next term to help students deal with the stress of exams: “There will also be some events coming in the next term around exam time to help students take a break during what can be a busy period, and therefore encouraging them to look after their own emotional wellbeing.”

He added that young people’s mental health should be a priority and that universities nation-wide should be responsible for helping their students, saying: “Mental health and emotional wellbeing need a real focus across the country, and in the Higher Education sector.

“With rising fees, rising accommodation prices and more pressure to find a job upon graduating, there is a lot that we need to be doing as Students' Unions and universities to tackle these issues and provide support for students."

He stressed that there is already a great deal of support in place for students at the University of York, including the Open Door team, Nightline and the Advice and Support Centre, and he encouraged students to use the services available to them.

“There a large number of people who can help if you're worried about your own, or a friend's, mental health,” Hughes said. “There is YUSU's Advice and Support Centre, based in the Student Centre in James College, where you can talk to a trained advisor, and there is also the university's Counselling Service, Open Door, which can offer you support and help support friends of yours who you might be worried about. This includes if you need support due to a friend's mental health.

“Also, if you want to talk confidentially at night about what's on your mind, the student-run confidential listening and information service, Nightline, is open from 8pm to 8am every night of term, and you can find out more information about them at www.yorknightline.org.uk.”

Commenting on the research Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns Policy and Participation at YoungMinds, the UK’s leading children and young people’s mental health charity, said: “Young people’s mental health is under pressure like never before. With zero job prospects, university increasingly financially unviable, ever-increasing pressure to follow the latest consumer trends and worrying rates of online bullying this research reflects shows just how difficult young people growing up in the 21st century.

“The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030 more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem yet investment in mental health remains sadly lacking.

“For every pound spent by the NHS, specific services for children and young people’s mental health receive less than a penny. It’s time we recognised that the wellbeing of young people is vital if we want to have a mentally healthy society for generations to come.

“We are sitting on a mental health time-bomb and urgent action is needed to invest in mental health support services for young people.”

The University of York’s Open Door team can be contacted on opendoor@york.ac.uk, Nightline on 01904 323735 and www.yorknightline.org.uk and the Advice and Support Centre on welfare@yusu.org.

For further information about YoungMinds, visit their website.

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