Poor mental health can affect students at all stages of their university experience. Whether they are facing loneliness, anxiety or even depression, mental health difficulties can have a significant impact on a student’s ability to engage with their studies, make friends and make the most of their university experience.
In this blog we assess 6 major ways in which poor mental health can impact the student experience.
Institutions often point to lower engagement with studies from students facing mental health challenges. Many universities now track engagement levels to identify students who may need support. Students with mental health challenges may seem less interested in their course, unwilling to engage in discussions and their attendance overall may decline.
Students facing anxiety or depression may feel unable to go into lectures or seminars or unable to face the social interaction that comes with daily university life. This often proves to have a knock-on effect on academic engagement. Students with mental health challenges may suddenly change their levels of engagement or seem less proactive. These signs of withdrawal are typical indicators of a student facing mental health risks.
Students with mental health difficulties may also struggle with their concentration in seminars or lectures. They may be distracted by other challenges in life or may be feeling the strain of their mental health. This may mean students are unable to contribute to sessions in their usual way, take longer to understand concepts or are simply not able to focus on the task in hand. Lecturers or course leaders may notice a difference from the student’s usual performance or may recognise signs a student is distracted or unfocussed.
Often the impact on engagement and concentration with academic studies can have a direct impact on attainment. Students facing mental health challenges may see a decline in their results or prove unable to respond effectively to the high-pressure expectations of exams and assignments. Results from a course and how they compare with previous performance can often indicate to lecturers and professors that a student may be struggling with their mental health.
Often expectations around attainment and results can often compound mental health issues and become the focus for anxiety, stress or depression.
Those with mental health challenges may also seem uninterested or unengaged with their long-term progression. Whether it be progression through the course or looking towards long term career goals and future employment, mental health risks can often block this long-term thinking. Students may be unable to think beyond the day they are facing or their immediate problems.
Mental health risks are often linked with higher levels of drops out and lower retention rates. Any institution should be looking to ensure that interventions are delivered early enough to prevent the needs for a student to withdraw from their course. It is often typical for students struggling with their mental health to face poorer student outcomes and be less likely to carry on to the next stage of their studies.
5. Energy and Enthusiasm
Not all the affects of mental health are directed towards the academic experience. The character and personality of a student may be impacted mental health challenges. This can mean that a student has less energy, they may seem less enthusiastic about university life and as a result may not engage with extra-curricular activities and social occasions.
Students with mental health risks may feel unable to leave their student accommodation and unable to face new experiences and challenges that come with university life. This lack of enthusiasm can often become a cycle in which they become more isolated and less able to engage with their peers and studies.
6. Sociability and Relationships
Student facing mental health risks can often very quickly become less sociable or less interested in making new friends or building relationships. Those around the student may notice they become withdrawn and unwilling to take part in social activities. Many students facing mental health risks need a support network and friends around them to help them and the change in these relationships can be a key warning sign.
No Student is the Same
It should be stressed that no student is the same. The impacts of poor mental health above are key indicators of a student facing mental health problems and needing support. However, some students may respond in an entirely different way. A student could seem entirely happy and engaged to others and yet be facing significant personal challenges. As such, it is vital that higher education institutions ensure that mental health support and awareness is easily accessible to all throughout the student lifecycle.