Published on May 15, 2014 | by Anuschka Ross


Vulnerable students need more support

A common perception is that University will be the best years of your life, but is this the case for everyone? With numbers of student suicides on the rise and mental health services at the mercy of university budget cuts, it is worthwhile to look at the troubles that one can encounter in this new stage of adulthood.

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Mental health is a ‘taboo’ subject our society doesn’t like to acknowledge, isolating those who suffer []

While most first-years see university as an exciting new part in life where parents can no longer tell you what to do and you’re in full control of your life, be it studying or drinking habits, for many young people it can also be a very distressing experience.

Many young people underestimate the extreme psychological pressures that come with such important life changes and not everyone is able to cope with these in the same way. In fact a majority of students feel overwhelmed by university life at some point during their studies and some even to a point where they see no other option but harming themselves or committing suicide.

During the last few years there have been several incidences of suicides even at the UAL and several studies have shown that students are especially prone to experience mental health problems and suicidal thoughts, as Ms. Oestreich, a psycho therapist at a German centre for psychology explains.

“Going to university can be exciting and great, but at the same time all the changes create a feeling of insecurity. It’s not unusual that many students feel overwhelmed by the new environment and independence.

“Students can easily feel that they’re not reaching their full potential or might regret their choice of subject but are afraid to admit it to their family for financial or other reasons. Young people can easily get the impression they are alone or abnormal in having these feelings, but that of course isn’t true.

“It’s also very common for people who suffer from depressions to have unreasonably high expectations to themselves that they feel they are incapable to reach. They wouldn’t be content in just getting a ‘B’ but feel the only justification for them to be alive is when they reach top scores. But even if they do, they will never be content with their achievement and wear themselves out reaching for impossible expectations.”

International students are found to be particularly at risk, because on top of starting at university, they are also more likely to suffer from financial problems, language barriers, cultural differences and as an result of this possibly social isolation and self-doubt.

Over a the last few years universities and the government have acknowledged the danger of suicide and have set up various schemes to reduce stigmatisation of mental health issues and make access to social and psychological help more readily available to everyone.

Young adults are specially affected by mental illnesses

At UAL specifically, students have access to a mental health advisor with whom all difficulties can be discussed over the phone or during a personal meeting and additional support can be arranged. Additionally, there are anonymous helplines, like that of the Samaritans, where students can call 24/7 if they feel the need to talk about anything that’s troubling them.

Yet, despite the various official help lines and support channels it is also and maybe even more important that we as students and peers pay a little closer attention to each other. It is easy to get lost in a new university environment and we greatly depend on our social surrounding for stable mental health.

Ms. Oestreich says, “sometimes it’s easier to be asked if everything is alright then to admit it isn’t by ourselves. Some people might be afraid to offend others by such a question but it can really help if they realise that there are other people who might care about them and see that they’re not feeling well. It’s not a question of denunciation but rather of human care.”

For further information and contact details are provided below:


Mental Health Adviser: Sonia Avasthi
Monday – Thursday, 9am – 5pm.
Mobile: 07809 552 033
Email: or
Usually based in High Holborn, based at CSM/Kings Cross every Thursday during term time – extension 8477


Mental Health Adviser: Emily Kopp  
Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.
Phone: 020 7514 6531
Mobile: 0770 388 7615
Email: or
Usually based in High Holborn, based at LCC every Monday during term time – extension 8446

Samaritans Helpline

08457 909090



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