In this issue
College counselling in the age of biological psychiatry: a Szaszian perspective (free article)
John Breeding challenges the psychiatric model and its reliance on drugs to treat student distress
Responding to risk through behavioural intervention teams
How can we best work with and contain students at risk? Dave Wilson outlines a cross-service approach
Keeping mental health in mind: the importance of that first conversation
Jackie Williams introduces a pilot e-learning programme for non-specialist staff who encounter students in distress
Freedom and chains: the duality of the university experience for young men with eating disorders
A call for greater awareness of how eating issues affect men as well as women. Russell Delderfield shares his research findings
Joining the dots: the impact of undiagnosed dyslexia on students
Sarah Olds explores the personal and academic costs for students whose dyslexia remains hidden
Tales from the woods
David Mair shares two metaphors relevant to short-term counselling in education
Notes from HUCS
Notes from the chair
Notes from FE
From the editor
In recent weeks the media have been full of stories about student mental health. A narrative is emerging that students are a fragile group and that university and college life is fraught with high levels of anxiety and stress. We’re told that the introduction of tuition fees has played a pivotal role in driving the increase in presentations at counselling services, and that without fast access to counsellors or other mental health workers, students’ chance of success, or even of completing their studies, are compromised.
Narratives create reality. And so it’s important that we critically assess them as they emerge, because they surround our work as counsellors, as well as the lives of the clients we work with. In our opening article, John Breeding offers a critique of the biopsychiatric narrative of mental illness. Writing from the US, he alerts us to the huge rise in prescribed medications and their potential impact on young lives – often, he argues, without good evidence for their need or effectiveness. Yet the distress that students experience is real and we need to be clear about what counselling can – and can’t – offer this group of emerging adults.
Hidden distress is all the more difficult for being unacknowledged. Sarah Olds writes about the distress of undiagnosed dyslexia. When teachers, doctors, parents – and counsellors – are unaware of possible indications of dyslexia, students suffer from unrecognised barriers to success. Conversely when appropriate diagnoses are made, what was experienced initially as a burden can, potentially, become a gateway to embracing an alternative way of seeing the world – a liberation. And Russell Delderfield shines a light into the often hidden distress of men who are suffering from eating disorders. Gender bias can lead us to miss symptoms which are more often associated with women but which can have a profound impact on young men’s experience of university.
Dave Wilson argues for the need for all staff in institutions to take student distress seriously. For any one service to work in isolation, attempting to support students at risk is not only ineffective, he argues, but potentially unethical. Building on this assertion, Jackie Williams informs us of a new e-training package aimed at nonclinical staff in colleges and institutions, to help them interact more confidently with students who need support.
Our professional settings are challenging places to work, requiring us all to be aware of the narrative currents that swirl around us. I hope you find the contributions in this issue enlightening and supportive.