Nearly 80,000 students accessed treatment for mental health issues in 2016-17. Rethink?

It was an old adage for many years that “youth is wasted on the young”. In my day – and my generation was privileged to be invested in – we enjoyed our youth – most especially our student days and early career days. Life was not too serious, not carefree – we experimented, failed, laughed and took risks with little fail of failure.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

Today sadly the picture is far starker. A new report indicated that in 2016-17, nearly 80,000 students at University accessed treatment for anxiety and mental health issues – 78.100 up from 50,900 in 2012. In the same period, budgets for mental health support for students has increased by 40% and is close to £36m per year.

This is unacceptable for being young and carefree is surely important in the journey of life? Moreover, how can we expect to be laying the ground for next generation when so many are suffering?

We can all argue over the reasons for such results – there is a need to develop a framework that really does help develop the mental resilience and also a framework that maybe takes the pressure off the young.

There is exceptional talent in the young for there can be little doubt that the above does suggest that the structure and process is not helping the young be bullish, and positive about the future. There appears to be an unhealthy fear of failure and is it really a coincidence that the numbers have grown with the increased financial pressures of debt that has been placed on students?

That is experts in the field to debate – we would argue that there needs to be a new framework needed that can start to reverse this picture. It can’t be just cost as the cost is growing each year in treatment as it is, so this is about creating new solutions.

Have businesses adapted much to take their pressures into account? 

We all spend a lot of time learning skills, even ensuring that we are physically fit – but how much time is invested in ensuring that we are managing the mental side of life well – handling pressure, adversity, disappointment and overcoming these to be able to succeed. We all love stories of when the underdog or the injured find their way back to success.

Rightly or wrongly, we argue that there is a need for leadership development centres to be created that work with the young to help develop their mental approach to work and life. We believe that many in the world of sports have techniques and approaches that really help the young. Just spend some time with some of the sporting talent that this country possesses and one soon sees a different approach and mental attitude. As this talent moves towards their last days in sport, they can make the transition to coaching of not just sports but the young in mind-set. This is often world class talent that wants to help others. We can use that effectively.

Whether you agree with this or not, there is no doubt we need new thinking as the numbers above are simply not acceptable and there is a need for new ideas.