A recent Freedom of Information request made by the Scottish Liberal Democrats has revealed that students at the University of Glasgow had to wait up to 40 weeks for a counselling appointment.
The information reported that the longest waiting time for an appointment was 276 days – longer than the length of an academic year.
In recent years the number of students at Glasgow University using the counselling service has increased significantly. In the 2011/12 academic year, 1,146 students used the University counselling service and psychological services, while in 2015/16 this rose to 2,276 students.
In response to the figures released, a University of Glasgow spokesperson said: “We are conscious of concerns about waiting times for counselling appointments and we are making a significant investment in additional support for the 2017/18 academic year. We are employing new staff who will provide a first point of contact for assessments, so that the time between referral and assessment is reduced.”
Asked as to why more students are seeking help, the spokesperson speculated that an increased awareness of mental health issues has led to a rise in the numbers of people using the University’s mental health services.
The University of Glasgow provides additional mental health-related services other than counselling, such as the Peer Support Programme. Students can apply for this programme and, if selected, undergo a 30-hour course that covers areas such as suicide awareness, communication skills, and crisis intervention in order to allow them to support other students. This service is intended to be used by those who may not want to seek professional help.
The University plans to invest in the Peer Support Programme and add more staff to the counselling service. As stated by a University spokesperson: “We have also added to our counselling staff to better meet the needs of those who need ongoing therapy. For urgent needs, we are continuing our award-winning Priority Response programme, in which we provide up to six appointments per day for students in crisis.”
Additionally, recent figures released in June by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show a rise in students with mental health issues dropping out of universities in Scotland.
These figures show that 130 students suffering from mental health issues dropped out of university in 2014-15, compared with 45 in 2009-10.
Speaking to the Evening Times, Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, stated: “Universities and the Scottish Government have a responsibility to make sure that the welfare of all students, physically and mentally, is supported and put first. If a student is in need of help then they must be able to access that help as quickly as possible.”