NUS student survey sends clear message to government – invest in mental health now

Sunday, January 3, 2021
  • 52 per cent of students say their mental health has deteriorated or been affected negatively by Covid-19
  • Only 20 per cent of students have sought mental health support
  • 29% of those who said their mental health had been negatively affected had sought help
  •  Of those seeking help 57% are satisfied with how they’ve been supportedOver half of the UK’s students say their mental health has deteriorated or been affected negatively by Covid-19, a new survey from NUS (National Union of Students) has found. The results bring to light the enormous impact that the pandemic has had on student mental health and provide a clear statement to government – invest in mental health now.

Despite the difficulties students have been facing only 20 per cent have sought mental health support, with only 29 per cent of those who reported worsening mental health seeking help. Of those who have sought support, around three in five (57 per cent) have been satisfied with what they have received.

The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase III took place in November and involved over 4,000 students, building upon the previous research issued by NUS in April and September 2020. Only 45% of students agreed to some extent that they are sleeping well with feelings of love and belonging falling since the summer, and under two thirds feeling they have sufficient contact with others.

Almost half of students are interacting more with family but contact with other support networks has decreased. 57 per cent of students are interacting less with other students at their institution, 53 per cent less with friends and 65 per cent less with clubs and societies.

Similarly, two in five students, who are in a relationship, never see their partner and only 13 per cent of students see their friends more than once a week.

When asked about further support they would like to see provided students mainly listed ‘access to a councillor’ and ‘someone to talk to’ as key needs. This underlines the urgent need for more investment in mental health services to ensure that all students can access the support they clearly need.

Larissa Kennedy, NUS National President, said – “It should be no surprise that the majority of students have experienced deteriorating mental health as a result of the pandemic. It is deeply troubling that students are not getting the support that the need, with only 29 percent of those reporting worse mental health accessing services.

“Students deserve better than their treatment this term. It is time for governments to fund university, college and NHS mental health services to ensure all students can get the support they require. Students’ unions also need greater investment to continue to provide essential services to students.

“Covid-19 has not had an equal impact on all and has further entrenched the disadvantage that marginalised groups feel. Targeted support must be offered to students of colour, disabled students, student parents and LGBT+ students, and funding should be provided to mental health charities working with these groups.

“We must tackle the root of these issues. There was already a mental health crisis on campus that has been exacerbated by Covid-19. To alleviate this crisis students need greater financial support, accessible learning spaces and safe accommodation.”