The study found that more than half of new undergraduates who took part had reported experiencing a mental health issue at some point during their life. The most common problems included panic attacks (41.2%), suicidality (31%), major depressive episode (24.2%) and generalised anxiety disorder (22.6%). The study also found that rates were higher among LGBT students and those experiencing financial difficulties.
Lead author of the study, Ulster University Professor Siobhan O’Neill said,
“Mental health and behavioural problems are common among students commencing university. University life can be stressful; for some students existing mental health issues intensify during the course of their studies while others will develop disorders for the first time.
“This study provides important information for universities, policy makers and healthcare professionals on mental health and wellbeing in young people in general and particularly for students starting university.
“We hope that our findings will assist in the development and implementation of mental health protection and prevention strategies in both the university setting and beyond.”
The second part of the study is still ongoing. Each participant provided a saliva sample which researchers are using to look for biological and DNA predictors of mental illness and suicidal behaviour.
The study is part of the WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project which aims to conduct longitudinal research to examine and monitor student health and wellbeing.
Mental health and wellbeing is a priority for Ulster University. The new £5m Institute of Mental Health Sciences is taking a multi-disciplinary approach to mental health research. Scientists across different disciplines will examine the genetic underpinnings of mental health all the way through to how mental health issues can be alleviated through interventions promoting physical exercise.
Student Support at Ulster University provide a range of professional services, including mental health support, designed to help students cope with any problems that may arise and ensure they make the most of their university experience.
Ulster University students, staff and alumni are also focusing on mental health via the Mind Your Mood initiative. Mind Your Mood is a student-led mental health campaign designed to improve the emotional wellbeing of students and tackle the social stigmas associated with seeking support.
Last year, a major fundraising initiative, supported by staff, students and alumni, raised over £35,000 for Mind Your Mood. These funds are being invested in a range of programmes designed to support student mental health. Fundraising for 2018 was launched this week and the Mind Your Mood team are encouraging as many people as possible to take part.