Unite Foundation

Student Mental Health

The mental health of students in HE is a growing concern across the sector.  Young people who survive trauma are known to have a higher incidence of clinical mental health conditions, and we’re aware of the challenges within the NHS and HE to deliver the support young people need.

Unfortunately, the break between adolescent and adult mental health care happens at the worst possible time in a young person’s life, particularly if they go to university.  The transition to adult life can be difficult and emotionally draining even in the best of circumstances, but this is compounded if you need support for your mental health.  Young people report being moved from active support in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), to being back on a waiting list in their local adult service on their 18th birthday.  If that young person then moves away to university, and therefore require mental health services within a different Health Board or Trust, they will have been pushed to the back of the queue twice in the space of a year at the most challenging and difficult time of their life.

It’s important that we don’t blur well-being with mental illness but at the same time we recognise that well-being impacts significantly on how a young person can manage a life transition and engage with new communities on offer to them. This is a difficult transition for all young people but for estranged students, there is a fundamental sense of difference that comes from being surrounded by other students with ‘normal’ families and this can be intense.

“You’re in a place – university – where you’re surrounded by people who can call their parents. Not just for money, but to say, ‘today was quite hard, I miss home’… and I still miss home in spite of everything… that’s hard.”

Research both with estranged students and the wider student population confirms that isolation leads to poor integration, low confidence levels and a significantly higher risk of drop out.

The Unite Foundation welcomes our scholars into a safe and secure home, appropriate for study, taking away financial hardship and housing fragility. Our hope is that this, in turn, alleviates anxiety and the need to work long hours to fund study, reducing academic stress and freeing our scholars up to enjoy enriching experiences; involvement in clubs and societies, trips, social events and being an active part of a community. All things that contribute to a feeling of happiness and belonging.

The challenge now, for the HE sector and those of us who support them, is what can we do to ensure estranged young people have access, not just to university, but to the full, enriched, university experience on offer?

The Stats

  • the percentage of our scholarship students who feel confident in their ability to face challenge