Students with Mental Health Conditions battling Stigma and Disbelief

Six out of ten students have struggled to believe their peers when they say they have a mental health condition, a new study finds, showing that mental health stigma still exists on university campuses across the UK.

Today is University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day. The Priory Group has surveyed students; seven out of ten say they know someone with a mental health condition but of those, almost 70% admitted they have struggled to believe them.

Not only are many students who disclose their mental health conditions not being believed by their university peers, but their honesty has also led to them experiencing “humiliation” and “discrimination”, a study released by the Priory Group ahead of University Mental Health Day (UMHD - 18/02/2015) reveals.

An overwhelming majority of students (85%) agree that there is stigma attached to mental health at university, with an alarming 60% having witnessed first-hand a fellow student being stigmatised for having a mental health condition.  

The second UMHD study by the Priory Group confirms that mental health stigma is still  present at UK universities, echoing 2014’s findings that found a quarter of students felt uncomfortable talking to their peers about mental health, and 50% experienced negative backlash.

The Priory Group’s findings clearly show the need for improvements to be made to the support available to students with mental health conditions. Nine out of ten students agree that their universities could do more to help, with many students calling for “further training for university staff” and “awareness talks to be given to students on mental health”.

The study also found:

  • Male students are less likely to believe their peers who claim to have a mental health condition than females.
  • London-based students are the most doubtful of their peers’ mental health claims (80%).
  • 18-24 year old students felt the strongest that there was a stigma attached to mental health.

Dr Ian Drever, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Woking explained:

“Going to university is a time of real life change for young people, what with them leaving home, having very different looking days and a whole set of new stresses and social surroundings. Whenever change happens in people’s lives it’s a sort of pinch point when anxiety or indeed any form of mental illness, is more likely to arise. If students are also being subjected to isolation and stigma, this can heighten illness and make it more likely to arise in the first place.”

He recommended that: “Students need to keep an eye out for the signs they may be developing a mental health condition, including problems sleeping, concentrating, and being sociable. Although it’s easier said than done I think it’s important that students share how they feel with a close friend or a healthcare professional. They need to acknowledge to themselves that they are not well, or not happy, and that it’s time to get help.”

A university student who wished to remain anonymous spoke out about her first-hand experiences of isolation and stigma linked to her mental health at university, when her fellow students didn’t believe she had anxiety and depression:

“Sometimes [students] don't believe the severity of my illness, and how it affects my functioning. Often they don't understand why I can't do 'normal' things like go to nightclubs or drink alcohol, and why I have to sit at the edge of the row in lecture theatres.”

For more details of the survey and its findings click here

Please support University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day by signing our petition to improve mental health services in universities. 




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