Uni students’ mental health under radar

(Australian Associated Press)

For rural students moving to the big smoke to study at university and juggle part-time work, the transition can be fraught with anxiety.

That was the experience of Nick Fava, 25, who moved from country Victoria to study in Melbourne.

“When I first started university I found it very difficult… I found it a very isolating place,” he told AAP, adding he suffered anxiety symptoms, panic attacks and had disrupted sleep which caused him to miss classes.

Mr Fava said there were long waiting lists to access counselling and support once he finally discovered there were services available on campus for free.

However, he believes there was room for improvement and the services should focus on students well-being broadly, not just supporting them through their studies.

According to a new report, at least one in four young people aged between 15-24 experience mental ill-health in any given year.

Australia is falling behind in comparison to the UK, USA and Canada in efforts to understand and address the mental health needs of university students, according to the report, released on Wednesday from Orygen, the national centre for excellent in youth mental health.

“A lack of sleep, poor diet, drug and alcohol use, financial stress, work/study balance, living away from family and performance pressures are among the risk factors which can result in, or exacerbate, mental ill-health and psychological distress among university students,” the report said.

It found some university staff lacked an understanding about the seriousness of mental health conditions and effective ways to respond to students it needs.

Among the recommendations, universities needed to offer youth mental health training to tutors and administration staff who come into frequent contact with students.

The report also called for institutions to ensure students had easy access to online mental health services.

The federal government was also urged to increase support for students who had mental ill-health.


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