Credit: Ryan Melaugh via Flickr.

The tokenism of Glasgow University’s support services

By Melissa Friel

Does the University provide adequate mental health support to those who need it?

It’s safe to say that over the past few years, students have had it pretty tough. Through a pandemic, cost of living crisis, and a severe housing shortage, the student hallmark of the “work hard, play hard” life has been warped for many. With this year being the first normal year back since 2019, the effects of the past few years on students’ wellbeing is beginning to show, with 92% of students stating that the country’s current economic climate is affecting their mental health. How are we meant to “work hard, play hard” when the university environment offers little to no support, and our social life is being compromised by having to choose between a night out and turning on our heating?

Many students now entering Glasgow spent a large portion of the last few years stuck at home. Others are feeling like they’ve been thrown into the deep end, all of a sudden bearing the pressures of third year whilst having never really been in university before. Some are left with anxieties, feeling they haven’t really had the “proper” university experience, and their time on campus is either coming to an end or already over. The past few years have more than likely impacted the mental health of every student  in some way, shape or form, so why have the University not adjusted their services to better cater to this issue? Even excluding the specific impacts of the pandemic, has the University of Glasgow ever provided sufficient support to those who need it?

The University does offer mental health aid, yes, but the nature and accessibility of this aid is not nearly enough to tailor to such a large group of people, with such a variety of different needs. The University website is littered with self-help resources and crisis lines, and you are able to get access to welfare officers and psychology consultants. However, the help currently offered is exclusively short-term. 3-6 sessions for problems that can have detrimental, and unfortunately sometimes lethal, effects on a student’s life is not good enough.  

The website also emphasises that these services are designed to help individuals with “mild to moderate” needs, urging those with more severe issues to seek help from their GP. But in a world where this system is equally as flawed, those struggling are likely to feel abandoned. When GP mental health aid can require up to 18 weeks of waiting, it’s easy to view this proposed “alternative” as simply the way in which the University avoids taking responsibility. Surely an organisation designed to cater to the needs of students should be better equipped to deal with these issues, especially when they so often affect students’ academic performance. It’s a bit ridiculous to write off certain cases for being “too serious” when the University houses tens of thousands of students, some of whom will inevitably require this kind of help during their university career. If, while knowing this, they still can’t commit to making the wellbeing of these students a priority, what does that say about the integrity of this institution?

While the lack of support available is alarming enough, the University’s direct involvement in the cause of issues faced by the student body is equally so. Maybe if they didn’t admit so many students – despite the accommodation crisis that has become particularly evident over the last couple of years – fewer people would be stressed about where they will sleep next week, and how this will impact the 3000-word essay that’s due. From oversubscribing courses, to their treatment of staff resulting in disrupted learning patterns, the University seems completely out of touch with the needs of their students.

It’s clear to see that no one is very happy with how the University prioritises student wellbeing, evident even in a quick scroll through the first three (never mind the other 299) pages of  

In April, a user wrote, “Studying here is possibly one of the worst decisions of my life… I’m really not exaggerating when I say this university and the course contributed to the state of my mental health being at its absolute worst.”

Another user mentioned lengthy wait-times and lack of funding for the support services: “While the uni has accepted thousands of more students to gain more profit, they have not increased funding for student support services. It takes months to get help from the mental health services and the Student’s Representative Council is supposed to help more and more students with no increased resources, which is totally unacceptable.”

Perhaps the attitude the University has demonstrated towards support services is reflective of the unfortunate societal perceptions of mental health in general. Despite growing awareness of mental health, there is still a tendency to perceive those who seek out support as weak and overly-sensitive (“snowflakes” is the term sometimes used). Still, as students, we know what we need, and with almost every society having a welfare officer and checking up on their members through social media, we’re starting to take matters into our own hands. While this is great to see, we have enough to stress about as students. The university we have chosen – and in many cases paid exorbitant amounts – to attend, has an obligation to offer adequate mental health services. And right now, they are failing. 


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