Alarming new survey reveals 70 per cent of Aussie students are experiencing mental health issues

April 06, 2017
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One of the largest mental health surveys of Australian students has revealed that mental health issues are worryingly high amongst students. Conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students (NUS), the study involved 2600 university and TAFE students aged 17-25, who were asked to rate their mental health over the past 12 months.

The issues affecting students most

The alarming results found that close to 70 per cent of students rated their mental health as poor or fair, while two-thirds of students experienced high or very high psychological distress in the last year.

When asked what mental health issues affected their studies, stress was the most prevalent problem, with 83.2 per cent of respondents believing this impacted their studies. The study also found that a lack of energy or motivation and anxiety were also major contributing factors, affecting over 75 per cent of survey participants.

Just over half of the respondents noted feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, panic or had trouble sleeping, while 35.4 per cent of respondents had thoughts of self-harm or suicide over the last 12 months.

We don’t talk enough about just how hard university is – not just in academics, but as a total readjustment, self-discovery period.

Feeling the pressures of being a student

According to Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan, these results are “…alarming, but not surprising”.

“Like all big life transitions, after finishing year 12 young people can be more vulnerable, they are an at-risk group with no clear check-in point for mental health difficulties,” he said.

NUS welfare officer Jilly Molloy believes there are many pressures facing students which can often have an impact on mental health.

“Workload, looming deadlines, relationship problems, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol use, it’s a long list that students themselves say have a detrimental impact,” she said.

Eighteen-year-old student Amelia Waters, who is a Headspace Youth Advocate, used the Headspace service after feeling the pressures of student life.

“We don’t talk enough about just how hard university is – not just in academics, but as a total readjustment, self-discovery period.

“There is this idea that everyone else is managing and is succeeding, but it’s not the case, and many people still don’t talk about the pressure because there is a stigma in admitting that you’re struggling.”

Workload, looming deadlines, relationship problems, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol use, it’s a long list that students themselves say have a detrimental impact.

How to look after your mental health as a student

According to Headspace’s online tips and advice, looking after your mental health means managing study stress, staying socially connected and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

To reduce stress, they recommend creating a study plan and making sure you have a balance between work, downtime, exercise and time with family and friends. It’s important to find a quiet and comfortable study space and to ensure you’re eating well and drinking lots of water to give your body and brain the energy it needs.

Headspace also notes that alcohol and drugs are not a helpful solution to study stress, as they’re likely to make you feel more anxious, stressed and tired.

Who can you talk to?

As well as mental health services available at your university or TAFE campus, Mr. Tretheowan says that headspace offers online and over-the-phone counselling service.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health issue, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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Lauren Piggott

Image: Justine Reyes, Flickr Creative Commons license

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