Sheffield College students suffering with mental health problems due to 'turbulent times'

Sheffield College Principal Heather Smith.
Sheffield College Principal Heather Smith.
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A number of Sheffield College students are suffering from mental health problems due to the 'pressures of living in turbulent times'.

Principal Heather Smith said some students suffer from conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Her comments come after research by the Association of Colleges found that many colleges nationally have referred students directly A&E with mental health problems in the last academic year.

In a radio interview, principal Smith said: "There’s a lot of emotional issues because of the pressures of living in more turbulent times.

“The worries about current economic and political climates, and how that’s going to affect their future. That sense of control and feeling that you can actually do something about what’s happening in the world.

“There’s also pressures around social networks, image, how you present yourself… certainly I would say that’s becoming an increasingly worrying part of young people’s lives.

“If you’re not happy and lacking in self-esteem, you begin to lack that resilience that’s needed for getting yourself through education.”

The AoC spoke to 105 colleges - almost a third of the total in England – and found three-quarters have referred students directly to A&E in the past academic year due to a mental health crisis.

Some 85 per cent of colleges also said there had been a rise in the number of students with mental health issues in the past three years. The research also found that just 40 per cent of colleges now have a full-time counsellor or mental health worker on campus due to cuts in funding

Ian Ashman, president of the AoC, said: "`Accident and emergency units are overloaded and overcrowded and it is not right that colleges are forced to refer so many students to these services, which are often not the most appropriate place for them.

"`Colleges don't want to add to the current problems A&E services are experiencing, but they are sometimes left with no choice because there is a lack of investment in joined-up specialist support for young people and adults in the community."

A Government spokeswoman said: "Young people's mental health is a priority for this Government and we are putting a record £1.4 billion into transforming the support available."