Students reporting mental health problems rises by almost 50 per cent

Fionnuala Walsh

Students feel more comfortable addressing mental health issues in college. Credit: GettyImages

The number of first year students with reported mental health conditions rose by 46 per cent in the last academic year, according to a new study.

This increase is most likely linked to improved supports and reduced stigma on college campuses, as reported by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability [Ahead].

“Supports are improving at second level, meaning more students are coming through and a positive change in public attitudes to mental health is resulting in students feeling more comfortable in disclosing to support services on campus,” said Ann Heelan, executive director of Ahead.

Numbers of students reporting problems with mental health are growing at a significantly faster rate than general students with disabilities, Dara Ryder, the Digital Media Manager for Ahead,  told the College View.

“We’ve only been tracking disability by type since 2005/06.

“Since then we’ve seen a 476 per cent rise in the numbers registering with disability services as having a mental health condition, in comparison a 250 per cent in numbers of students with disabilities in general,” said Ryder. 

“In 2005/06 students with a mental health condition made up 8.4 per cent of the disabled student population in comparison to 13.9 per cent now,” he added.

While the increase of students reporting mental health problems may pose a challenge to colleges, continuing to fund campaigns is very important, according to Podge Henry, Student Union VP for Welfare and Equality in DCU.

“I think mental health funding is something that we can never get enough of,” said Henry. “The more supports you have and the more campaigns you run, the more encouraging you are to people opening up, there needs to be more supports available.”

“I reckon that the culture on campus is changing and people are becoming more open about mental health and being more encouraging towards others opening up about their mental health,” he said.

“There is an increase in supports at a local level around campus with the student support and development office, counsellors service, financial and disability service as well. At a national level there are suicide prevention hotlines such as Pieta House and Samaritans,” he said.

There is also a 70 per cent increase in numbers with ADHD, which is down to increased awareness of the condition and therefore, better diagnosis, according to Ryder.

“20 years ago, the condition was non-existent in the public mind and so it went untreated or misdiagnosed in many cases. That has changed radically. This along with better supports at second level means there are more students coming through as registered with ADHD,” said Ryder.

Fionnuala Walsh