Preventing mental health problems in higher education

Bilal on BBC News in 2020, talking about his personal experience with mental health problems. (credit:@bbcnews, Bilal Hussain).

Talking about mental health will encourage a safe place within universities for students and young people in Birmingham, according to mental health care experts.

According to Student Mind, university mental health charity,75% of adults will have a mental health episode before the age of 25.

Data from the Office for National Statistics show there are lower rates of help-seeking yet an increase in students with mental health problems.

Lauren McConkey, project manager at Mental Health Foundation, works at a preventative mental health care charity that has campaigns and events to promote ‘good’ mental health care.

“In my role, I work in further and higher education: the main project that I work on is about how we can use peer workshops as a preventive method and looking after your mental health,” said Ms McConkey.

She added: “Getting students to have conversations with students about mental health and different ways of support, this is to prevent mental health problems from developing.”

Mental Health worker McConkey recognised there are lower rates of young people (people aged between 16 and 24) seeking that other age groups.

However, according to an enquiry by the Mind charity, 96% of young people surveyed in England had reported that their mental health was affected by their studies at some point.

“Everyone has mental health, it’s a spectrum, it’s up and down for all of us all the time. It’s not always a bad thing, we can all try different methods to look after it,” said Lauren McConkey , higher education officer.

One of the ways of taking care of mental health is by talking about it, according to McConkey.
Bilal Hussain, president of the Mental Health society said: “The greatest challenge in student mental health is speaking about it.
“I know from my own experiences, as well as other students, that it is not easy to talk about our own mental health.

Awareness is such a challenge, due to the stigmas and taboos that exist in society, that it’s just not easy to talk about it.”

Talking openly about mental health struggles should be prioritised, said the mental health society president.

He said: “I believe that knowledge is power. Education is a blessing. And both of these combined in the fitting of mental health can be so powerful, it could save lives…putting it out in the air that we are not alone can help as someone out there may relate and feel comfortable enough to seek the support they need.”

Bilal Hussain represented the mental health society in BCU at the fresher’s fair in 2021(credit: Bilal Hussain). 

Vicky Robbins, inclusive support worker at Bmet college in Birmingham agrees that talking about mental health is necessary.
She said: “There’s so much stigma that only now that people are being open in mental health difficulties.
“When you learn about yourself, you can build your resilience.”


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