Students with mental health problems 'slipping through the gaps' amid increase in university suicides

Student suicides in the UK have increased from 108 in 2001 to 134 in 2015. Credit: PA

A report has warned university students with mental health problems are in danger of "slipping through the gaps" when at their most vulnerable.

It comes amid a continuing increase in the number of student suicides.

Research by Universities UK indicates the number of young people dropping out with mental health problem has trebled in recent years.

It calls for a more "joined up" approach to mental health care services, with schools, colleges, universities, voluntary organisations and the NHS working together to provide adequate support to students.

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and chair of UUK's Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, told ITV News: “There are lots of theories – it may be that people are more comfortable talking about mental health, it may be the pressures of social media, it may be a whole variety of different things but the truth is – we don’t know – we are trying to research the scale of what’s happening and how best to engage young people in support mechanisms.

“Some of that has to start very early on – some of that has to happen in schools and as people progress through into university – we continue that journey.”

The report suggests mental health problems should be identified at an earlier age. Credit: PA

UUK say living away from home and having to make new friends; moving to a new city; and adjusting to university life can lead to young people to slip through the gaps of the health service at a time when they need support the most.

Students have reflected this in the report: "When I moved out of my home area to university, I could no longer access the NHS service I had been with for over a year because I was registered with a GP in another county.

"This was a difficult experience, which left me feeling uncertain of what services I could receive."

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We need to improve the links between local NHS services and the support that universities provide.

"It is essential that these young people are provided with the right support at each step of the pathway."

If you are in distress or need some support, the following charities can help:

  • The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website

  • The Papyrus HopeLineUK is available on 0800 068 4141 and more information can be found on their website

  • CALM is available from 5pm until midnight on 0800 58 58 58 and more information can be found on their website