Socialist Worker

Storm over student mental health crisis

by Fran Harbich
Issue No. 2606

Protesting in Bristol last week. Mental health services are a crucial issue at many colleges

Protesting in Bristol last week. Mental health services are a crucial issue at many colleges (Pic: Simon Doyle)


Hundreds of students joined a March for Mental Health in Bristol last Friday demanding that the university improves its mental health services.

Around 600 people joined the protest, called in response to recent student deaths.

Ten students at universities in Bristol have died by suicide in just over 18 months.

The protest demanded more mental health training for university staff and personal tutors.

It also wanted a clear plan for how the university’s new wellbeing and residential advisers will develop relationships with students.

And it called on the university to invest in mental health services and reduce waiting times.

Objected

Students objected last year when the university announced plans to get rid of wardens in halls of residences.

These are older students who live in halls to give pastoral support in return for reduced rent.

There is also controversy over the counselling services the university provides to students.

The university limits these to four one-hour sessions. Protesters said this just isn’t enough. The protest was organised by a group of Bristol university students through a ­Facebook group and by leafletting and postering on campus and around student halls.

Protest organiser Ruth told Socialist Worker, “We are having this march because we believe the services at this university don’t adequately support students.

“We want to create a safe space where staff and students can come together, discuss what needs to be changed and push

management on our demands.

“We’re not going to rest until our demands are met.”

The causes of mental distress are varied and complex. But protest organisers said mental health problems were growing among students and can be made worse by pressure to get good grades to justify paying high tuition fees.

Students can also be stressed about having to graduate with massive debts into a labour market that seems stacked against them.

Pressure

A lot of the pressure on new students also comes from being away from home.

Many protesters told stories of people who felt alone but didn’t have support from the university.

Some told of how mental health services had helped them to get through their own struggles and wanted to make sure those services stay available for others.

Others said they had come to show support for people they knew who had troubles with mental distress.

One protester told Socialist Worker, “I lost my friend last year at university so I’m here in solidarity for those that aren’t here to march.”

The protest’s organisers finished by saying they were glad to have made their voices heard—and promised to keep campaigning.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.