The number of university students seeking mental health support increased by more than 50 per cent in five years, according to research by the BBC.

The BBC, which received responses from 83 universities after submitting Freedom of Information requests, found that the number of students reaching out for help rose from 50,900 to 78,100 between 2012 and 2017.

At the same time, budgets towards mental health services increased 40 per cent from £25.5m to £36.6m. It is unclear how much of the increase went towards increasing provision of embedded counselling services.

The figures come as BACP campaigns to give students with mental health issues access the right support at the right time amid concerns that counselling services are at risk of downgrading or outsourcing. 

Eva Crossan Jory, the NUS vice president, said: "There is a growth in demand [for mental health services] over the last decade, in part, because the reality of studying in the UK has changed so much.

"Many are balancing work, study and caring responsibilities. With fees so high, and the job market so competitive, students feel they have to continually push themselves, perhaps more so than before."

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: "University is supposed to be an assault on the senses. It should be demanding and disorientating, and with that should come adequate pastoral care for students‎.

"This does not mean mollycoddling or cushioning students from the experiences that are part and parcel of university life, it means making sure support services are available if they need them."

The BBC’s figures follow a campaign by BACP to help university and college students with mental health issues access the right support at the right time.

Our university and college counselling services campaign seeks to influence the development of the Mental Health Charter as a member of the advisory group. The charter will recognise universities with exceptional approaches to promoting and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students.

BACP is also campaigning to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of embedded counselling services within universities and colleges.

We've updated our briefing:

Looking after our students’ mental health (pdf 0.3MB)

Members are also being invited to get involved and support the campaign. Please write to your local politician to raise awareness of the benefits of university and college counselling services.