Pages Navigation Menu

News Around the World

University students are happy to have their mental health issues shared with their parents, poll finds

 Students would be happy to have their mental health issues flagged with their parents by university, a survey has found.

Four in five (81 per cent) undergraduates said that their university could share information with their next of kin, according to a poll of over 14,000 students.

The annual Student Academic Experience Survey, conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the sector group Advance HE, also found that students are increasingly anxious.      

Two thirds (66 per cent) of undergraduates said their university could contact their parents about their mental health under “extreme circumstances” and another 15 per cent said they could under any circumstances. 

  It comes amid growing calls for better information sharing between universities and students’ next of kin, in the wake of a string of suicides where parents have felt they had been left in the dark about their child’s wellbeing.

Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said he is “constantly” told that “students are adults, they don’t want their parents interfering in their life, parents are the last people you would want to tell if you had a challenge”.

But the survey results prove that such arguments – previously used by the student unions and mental health charities – are not correct, he said.

“Those opinions are out of date, mental health is something people are much less embarrassed about it,” he said. “Parents are also much more involved in their children’s higher education than they used to be.”

Among 20 to 24-year-olds, 37 per cent experience low anxiety, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compared to 16 per cent of university students.

The proportion of students with low anxiety has been steadily decreasing, and is now five per cent lower than it was in 2016, the survey found.

Undergraduates were also less satisfied with life, found life less worthwhile and experienced less happiness than their peers, the data showed.

James Murray, whose son became the tenth Bristol University student to take his own life in the past three years, has campaigned for a change to data protection rules prevent further deaths at universities.

His son Ben, 19, died last May and it was only after his death the family discovered Ben had been falling behind in his studies, missing lectures and had been put in a “withdrawal process” by the university who were considering his “fitness to study”.

Universities say that under data protection laws, they are unable to share confidential information about students – who are over the age of 18 so legally regarded as adults – without their express permission.

But Mr Murray has called for the rules to be relaxed so parents can be told if students are struggling.  Damian Hinds, the education secretary, has previously urged vice-Chancellors to “get better at reaching out to family members” if a student is struggling, adding that this would be a “big step” towards improving pastoral care.  

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of the universities admissions service has already signalled that she is open to the possibility of adding a section to the Ucas application form where students opt in to having certain information about their wellbeing shared with their next of kin.  

468 ad

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code