Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Students 'suffer mental illness'

More than 25 per cent of students have, or have had mental health issues, new research shows

More than a quarter of students in Northern Ireland are suffering from a mental illness, or have done so in the past, a new survey has revealed.

The research was based on information gathered from 1,500 students attending college or university in Northern Ireland. The study was part of the Open Your Mind campaign on promoting mental health and identified drug/alcohol misuse, managing finances and worrying about job prospects as risk factors.

The survey also tested awareness of mental health issues and found that depression was the most commonly known mental illness, followed by bulimia and anorexia, as well as self-harming.

Adrianne Peltz, president of the project's lead partner, the NUS-USI students union, said: "So many people who leave home for the first time, and are far away from friends and family, can experience problems in relation to mental health.

"This type of scenario and the pressure of holding down a job while facing the stress of having to pass many exams and complete assignments can have a profoundly negative impact on some people's lives, and this report's findings are very telling."

A series of events is to be held at student campuses run by the University of Ulster, Queen's University and Belfast Metropolitan College. Anne Doherty, Deputy Chief Executive of the project's other partner organisation MindWise, said the findings highlighted the numbers experiencing mental illness.

But she added: "Yet they also starkly illustrate a potential lack of understanding of this very important issue, with around one in five people surveyed saying they had no experience of mental illness personally or through someone close to them.

"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 organisers said the survey also identified some positive points, including 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.

Those surveyed also noted how they can protect their mental health through exercise, talking and stress management techniques.

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