Scotland’s students deserve additional funding to support mental health
by Jon Vincent, Principal, Glasgow Clyde College and Lead Principal for Mental Health on behalf of Scotland’s College Principals' Group
Mental health services provided by Scotland’s colleges need additional long-term funding if they are going to maintain the care which students desperately need.
Money has been available in recent years to provide services including counselling, an invaluable resource for students struggling to complete their studies against the backdrop of the pandemic, financial worries, stress and anxiety.
However, this funding has a huge question mark hanging over it. The looming £51.9million cut to college budgets, including the loss of additional money which came to colleges during the pandemic, risks the ability of colleges to fully support their students.
The extra funding provided during the pandemic means that while demand for support has grown, waiting times to access college mental health support has fallen. That will not be the case in the future without the funding to make it happen.
This week the Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Colleges Scotland have launched the country’s largest ever study into the mental health and wellbeing of students across the country’s 26 colleges.
Thriving Learners is one of the largest studies of student mental health that has ever taken place in the UK and aims to help inform recommendations on prevention, early intervention, and support.
The Mental Health Foundation has already completed the research process for universities in Scotland, and the results were published in November 2021 were stark. The revealed nearly three quarters (74%) of university students reported having low wellbeing, with more than one third of university students surveyed (36%) reporting moderately severe or severe symptoms of depression.
We hope that thousands of college students will take part in the survey to help college leaders understand scale of the problems students are facing.
As a college Principal, I know first hand that mental health support is part of the reason why so many students have the scaffolding around them that they need to complete their studies and go on to join the workforce, or journey into higher education. The more support we can give our students, the more we are helping them to achieve their potential, improve their opportunities, and change their lives.
Every college can point to the successes of mental health support provided as a result of specific additional funding in recent years. But when that funding disappears, so will many of those services and the resulting positive outcomes they’ve delivered. Colleges are helping students locally and directly at a time when we know the pressure on NHS mental health services is extreme.
Every college leader has seen over the past two years a range of issues impact on our students – isolation, financial difficulty, health problems and anxiety – and these problems won’t go away. Students deserve investment to surround them with support, and colleges need specific, additional, long-term funding. College students deserve every support we can muster for them.
To find out more about Thriving Learners and participate in the survey, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/scotland/supporting-students-thrive