Students think parents should be told if their child is suffering at university

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Suicides of young people in education are very sadly becoming all too regular.

It is often the case that universities feel unable to warn parents or families of students experiencing a mental health crisis because they are classed as independent adults and to do so would be a breach of confidentiality.

However, a 2019 survey consisting of 14,000 individuals currently studying in the UK’s universities found that 66% of these students think that universities should involve parents if a student is believed to be having extreme mental health problems.

A further 15% of them thought that parents should be contacted if there is any sign of bad mental health.

18% stated that they believed under no circumstance should a university get in touch with parents regarding mental health.

The survey also discovered that students are feeling increasingly anxious and are feeling under more pressure when moving away from home. This correlates with the rising concern over the number of suicides at universities in the UK over the last few years.

Worryingly, out of 14,000 students, only 14% said they felt satisfied with their life.

Only 17% felt that their life was ‘worthwhile’.

The University of Bristol has been closely scrutinised after 10 students studying there committed suicide over an 18 month period. The university has now initiated a scheme whereby students can opt-in to allow parents to be contacted if there are mental health concerns. 95% of students have signed up.

Amanda Cavanagh, a Medical Negligence Specialist at Ashtons Legal, says: “What emerges from the survey is that parents’ involvement is only in “emergency or extreme” circumstances. Sadly, for some this means that knowledge of their child’s mental health problems comes too late. It is crucial that parents are involved early, as no one knows their child better. However, parents are not a substitute for mental healthcare specialists. They can provide vital support to a child in crisis, but early intervention with mental healthcare specialists alongside collaborative involvement by the parents is crucial. Perhaps mental healthcare providers could also have a system where parents are “opted” in by their children? The bottom line is that none of this can, or will be achieved, without the necessary increase in funding for mental health care across the board”.

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