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OfS: increase in mental health issues “worrying”

The Office for Students in the UK has said that the number of students who report mental health issues has “risen substantially over the last decade” in its 2019 annual review.

OfSThe OfS is funding projects to support mental health among students. Photo: Pixabay

International students in particular face a unique set of challenges

International students in particular face a unique set of challenges, from feeling isolated in a new country to having different attitudes towards mental health, and a lack of knowledge regarding support services that can leave them vulnerable.

“We’ve produced documentation on the NHS…particularly for Chinese students”

While students at college or university are “significantly less likely to attempt suicide” than those who don’t go on to higher education, the OfS review called the increase in mental health issues “worrying”.

Earlier this year, the OfS spent £14.5 million on 10 collaborative projects to address mental health concerns among students.

Student Minds, which is currently working on three of the projects, including one that aims to improve links between students and the NHS, praised the move when it was announced but encouraged the sector to do more.

“Beyond the 10 successful partnerships, there were another 38 bids that go unfunded, showing that there is a lot of vision and potential for further work to address other gaps across the UK,” said Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds.

Working with Student Minds, SOAS, the University of Leeds, and CampusLife, the University of Nottingham’s project specifically targets international students.

Andrew Winter, the institution’s campus life director, told The PIE that the project – ‘International student mental health – good practice guidance and intervention case studies’ – aims to create a toolkit that can be used across the sector.

“One of the things that we’ve done here in Nottingham is produced documentation on the NHS and how that works, particularly for Chinese students and for students from the Far East, where their medical cultures are different,” explained Winter.

The project is also offering funding for student groups, such as country-specific societies, to help get their input on what can be done for their mental health.

“We’ll be able to talk to those groups individually and get a bit more understanding.

“‘International’ is often considered one thing and UK students are another thing, but we know there’s huge diversity in the international bracket,” he added.

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