Study of over 17,000 students reveals endemic mental health crisis

Dig-In, the leading student brand-engagement platform, in collaboration with mental healthcare provider The Insight Network, has today released initial findings from one of the world’s largest-ever student mental health surveys, questioning more than 17,000 students from 130 universities across England, Scotland and Wales. The results will go on to form the basis of an in-depth whitepaper examining the scale of the mental health crisis amongst UK students.

The survey reveals that a third (32%) of students say they have suffered a serious personal, emotional, behavioural or mental health problem for which they felt they needed professional help. Yet only 37% were aware of school or university mental health services, highlighting the need for more widespread support for young adults. The early findings indicate that access to online services could help better meet the care needs of students, with 60% of respondents saying they would make use of expert psychological help online, provided they had rapid access.

The survey, conducted by Dig-In, which engages with 80% of all students from their first day of university through the provision of welcome boxes, points to a large-scale mental health emergency.

The research revealed:

  • Almost a quarter (24%) of students have thought about self-harming
  • More than two thirds (69%) of university students say they have suffered with anxiety
  • Over half (60%) know of friends or family members who have suffered mental health problems in the last 12 months.

Mental health is increasingly gaining media attention thanks to initiatives driven by practitioners, government, charitable organisations and those who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems. However, stigma surrounding the issue remains a barrier for the majority of sufferers, and stops them from speaking out and potentially seeking help. An overwhelming 69% of respondents with mental health problems admitted to having concealed symptoms from friends, families and colleagues for fear that there may be stigma attached.

The findings of the survey coincide with the annual World Mental Health Day on 10th October, which aims to provide an opportunity for greater discussion around the work which is and can be done to improve mental health care on a global level.

“These stark findings should serve as a call to action for the UK to invest more in mental health care provision, and for universities and schools to ensure ease of access to critical services,” commented Dr Stephen Pereira, Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director, The Insight Network. “Students themselves can also hopefully draw comfort from the fact that they are not alone. Mental health issues can affect anyone, at any point in their life, and it’s only through continued awareness and education that progress in care provision can be made.”

“The reach of our welcome box has enabled us to gain a comprehensive insight into student life and wellbeing across the UK,” commented Chris Platt, CEO, Dig-In. “We hope with our ongoing work with students across the UK, that we can help support them and bring to light key issues to help provide better support to the student community.”

The survey follows on from previous student research by Dig-In; in 2016, 103,000 respondents shared their views on lifestyle choices and drivers. Dig-In provides students with access to information, discounts and special offers from a huge range of companies, through its established network of brand and marketing partners.

A detailed whitepaper with medical analysis and further findings will be published in Q4 2017. To receive advise and help from the Inside Network, contact help@theinsightnetwork.co.uk