Australian Students Overwhelmingly Rate Their Mental Health as “Poor”
Words by Tom Haskell
Content Warning: Mentions of self-harm and suicide.
According to survey data released by Headspace and the National Union of Students today, 70% of respondents classified their mental health as poor.
Among the survey data, 35% of respondents reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months and almost 60% of respondents said that feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness had impacted their mental health. 83% said that they feel stressed, 82% feel that they lack energy or motivation in their lives, 80% report that they have feelings of anxiety, 76% reported having low mood, and more than 50% of respondents say that they have had trouble sleeping and feelings of panic.
Students are no strangers to the fact that the university lifestyle carries with it a few issues. Mounting workloads, lack of cash, and the possible introduction of drugs and alcohol are a few common elements of any student’s lifestyle. Welfare Officer for NUS, Jill Molloy, says that this lifestyle is not conducive to good mental health. “Workload, looming deadlines, relationship problems, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol use [all contribute to detrimental mental health]”.
While workloads don’t help, merely being a student isn’t the easiest thing in the world either. South Australia has the worst youth unemployment rate in the country sitting at 15%. This data doesn’t even include students who aren’t actively looking for work, nor does it include students who are underemployed i.e. working less hours than they would prefer to. This coupled with the fact that average student living expenses can be as much as $700 a week certainly doesn’t help. Further strains to students’ finances also come by way of lack of access to youth allowance and newstart payments, as well as the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates.
The survey results echo the sentiment of research carried out last year where it was revealed that youth suicide rates are at their highest than they have been in the last 10 years. In the report, the youth mental health service Oxygen recommended that resources needed to be re prioritised more effectively and more funding wasn’t necessarily the answer.
Speaking to On Dit, Headspace’s Michael Bennett stated that they are now in the process of putting together a report which they hope to have released before the end of the financial year. “Our aim is to get the stats of our initial findings out there in order to draw attention to the issue and get the conversation going surrounding students’ mental health”.
Adelaide Uni’s Welfare Officer, Sarah Tynan also spoke to On Dit about the importance of these results.
The results of the Headspace and NUS survey are deeply concerning and illustrate how vital the University’s free counselling service and the Adelaide University Union’s Student Care services really are. However, these services are often under resourced and students who need the service sometimes don’t know they exist, or struggle to make an appointment due to high demand.
Federal policy and support has failed to address and sometimes trivialize the serious nature of mental health for students, but this survey further cements that mental health is an issue effecting an overwhelming amount of University students and needs to be taken seriously, and funded as such.
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