SAMH is calling on the Scottish Government to:
Support the further education sector to increase counselling provision to the same level as the university sector by the end of the next parliamentary term; and
All colleges and universities to adopt the Mentally Healthy Colleges model to ensure a whole organisation approach to mental health.
Support for Scotland’s colleges and universities is also not consistent across the country. Even before Covid, demand for student counselling services was outstripping availability.
Colleges have less counselling provision than Scottish universities; only 46% of colleges have dedicated on-campus counselling services, compared to 89% of universities.
However, adding 80 additional counsellors for further and higher education is unlikely to address this inequality.
We believe the provision of counselling services in the further education sector urgently needs to be brought into line with higher education before the end of the next parliamentary term.
Alongside counselling services, a whole organisation approach to mental health can increase staff awareness and confidence in supporting students with mental health problems.
SAMH’s Mentally Healthy College project at Glasgow Clyde College resulted in 76% of staff feeling more confident about responding to a student talking about their mental health concerns, as well as an increase in the number of students with experience of a mental health problem completing their studies.
Approaches like this also help to raise awareness amongst students about the support available to them. A recent survey of 3,000 students commissioned by Think Positive, an NUS Scotland project, found that awareness of mental health services offered by colleges and universities is high.
However, there are significant differences between further and higher education, with around four times as many higher education students knowing about mental health support, compared to further education students.