We’re urging the Scottish Government to extend funding for counselling in colleges, following the release of figures which highlight the extent that students are struggling with their mental health.

More than half of college students (54%) reported having moderate or severe symptoms of depression, according to research by the Mental Health Foundation and Colleges Scotland.

Some 55% of students said they have concealed a mental health problem due to stigma.

The Thriving Learners survey also found that 37% of students had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months, and one in six students (17%) lived in a household that had run out of food in the past year.

Food insecurity

Among students who’d experienced food insecurity, 25% had severe symptoms of depression.

We’ve backed recommendations in the report for further Scottish Government investment in mental health and wellbeing support at colleges.

We’ll be using our position on Scotland’s Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group to call on the Government to extend counselling funding beyond the current academic year.

Steve Mulligan, our Four Nations Lead, said: “College students in Scotland are facing extremely tough times and the shocking impact on their mental health is emphasised in this report.

Cost-of-living crisis

“The food insecurity figures are particularly worrying given the link between poverty, food insecurity and mental health – and as this survey was carried before the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis was taking hold.

“We need a strong assurance from the Scottish Government that funding will be in place to support students with counselling beyond the 2022/23 academic year.

“We successfully campaigned with NUS Scotland and other partners in Scotland for the Scottish Government to commit to a four year programme of counselling in colleges and universities in 2018, underpinned by £20m investment. These latest figures highlight the urgency there is to extend this funding.”

Continuity of support

“This investment will importantly ensure continuity of support for students during this hugely challenging time and assurances for many counsellors working to support students. We’d also like to see more extensive investment alongside counselling to promote healthy wellbeing and prevent mental health problems from developing and escalating, as well as more help to address student poverty.”

More than 2,000 students from colleges across Scotland took part in the Thriving Learners survey, which was carried out between February and May 2022.

The report also recommends that college support services are also encouraged to improve communications to students, particularly those at higher risk of poor mental health, about mental health and well-being supports are available.

Read the full results of the Thriving Learners survey.