One of the largest national student surveys into the mental health of Australian university and TAFE students have revealed that a worryingly high percentage of them report poor mental health.
The survey, conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students, asked more than 2,600 students (aged 17–25) about their mental health.
Close to 70 percent of respondents rated their mental health as poor or fair (the bottom two of five options on the survey), two thirds reported high or very high psychological distress in the past 12 months, and 36 percent had thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Only 1.6 percent of students reported no symptoms of mental health problems impacting their studies.
Other mental health issues reported by students include feeling stressed (83 percent), lack of energy of motivation (82 percent), feeling anxious (79 percent), low mood (76 percent), feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness (59 percent), trouble sleeping (56 percent) and panic (53 percent).
Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan described the results as alarming – but sadly, not surprising, given the uniquely vulnerable position many young students find themselves in.
“Like all big life transitions, after finishing Year 12 young people can be more vulnerable, they are an at-risk group with no clear check-in point for mental health difficulties,” he said. “They might have moved out of home for the first time, they might have greater responsibilities financially and domestically. Some young people might engage in risky behaviours such as drug use. They may have less parental contact leaving them vulnerable and changes in their mental health going unnoticed. They are a group that can fall through the cracks.”
Melbourne university student + Headspace advocate Amelia Walters, 18, said part of this poor mental health could be down to our lack of conversations about how hard the transition from high school teenager to fledgling adult can be.
“There is this idea that everyone else is managing and is succeeding, but it’s not the case, and many people still don’t talk about the pressure because there is stigma in admitting that you’re struggling,” she said.
Headspace has a bunch of tips on how to manage your mental health while studying here, or if you’re struggling and/or want someone to talk to, you can call them on 1800 650 890. If you’re in crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Photo: This Is Fine.