By Claire Tennyson

Over a quarter of students are suffering or have suffered from a mental illness, figures revealed last week reveal.

The statistics were released at the launch of this year’s Open Your Mind campaign across Northern Ireland.

As part of the campaign, the project launched a report containing findings in relation to mental health based on information gathered from over 1500 students who attend university or college in Northern Ireland.

Results showed 27 per cent of students stated that they are currently or previously had a mental illness.

South Belfast MLA, Conall McDevitt, said the results of the survey highlights the importance of addressing the issue.

“This survey highlights the importance of addressing mental health as a priority in today’s society, and the need to remove the stigma which has long been associated with mental health,” he said.

“This is particularly important amongst young men, who are less likely to ask for help.”

The South Belfast MLA said it also showed the need for universities to ensure that they have adequate pastoral care, and that all students are aware of the services in place to help them, should they find themselves struggling to cope.

Depression remains the most commonly known mental illness, closely followed by eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and self-harming.

The study commissioned by the Open Your Mind project also highlights certain risk factors that the student population of Northern Ireland believe impact on mental health and well-being. These include drug and alcohol misuse, managing finances and worrying about job prospects.

Deputy Chief Executive of the project’s partner organisation MindWise, Anne Doherty, said: “These are very interesting findings which clearly show how many people have or have had a mental illness.

“Both these key statistics perfectly illustrate the importance of the work that the Open Your Mind team do in raising awareness and training students in relation to mental health matters.”

The survey also identified some positive points, the main one of these being the fact that students were able to identify a good support network that they could turn to if needed, and these include their GP, family and also friends.

Not only were the students able to speak of the support network they know is around them, but also they mentioned the knowledge they now have in terms of protecting their mental health through exercise, talking and stress management techniques.

 

 

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