A fear of failure, anxiety and depression are taking their toll on tertiary students, a new study has found.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Association surveyed nearly 2000 tertiary students about their mental health.

It found 56 per cent of those that took the survey considered dropping out of tertiary study because of mental health, fear of failure and overwhelming stress.

NZUSA national president Jonathan Gee said mental health was a serious issue among students, as it is in society.

“The survey scratches beneath the surface on the trials and tribulations of student life, a memorable yet stressful time in many people’s’ lives.”

He said over one month, 1762 students opted-in to the survey, which asked questions about their education, living situations, relationships, as well as assessing their level of psychological distress on the Kessler 10 scale.

It also asked about their experience of tertiary institution mental health services, and their mental health history.

Otago University Students’ Association student support manager Sage Burke said the results from the survey were “not overly” surprising.

“The survey has really put down on paper the trends that we have been seeing for the past few years.”

He said anecdotally he had found there were a range of factors that contributed to student’s mental health.

“University is a completely different world to high school, to full time work.”

He said isolation was a common theme he had encountered on campus.

“It is a feature of our society too. We are more connected than ever before, but we are also more isolated.”

Gee said as well as struggling to balance student life, tertiary education had become a “highly individualised experience.”

“It is seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. The pressure to succeed means that we have forgotten the important role of tertiary education in building community.”

Gee said in order to help students to success, more needed to be done to address mental health.

“We are calling for a culture change within our communities so that discussing mental health, accessing support services, and practicing self-care is a normalised part of everyday conversations.”

Burke said Otago had a huge range of services to help students — including Campus Watch, recreation programmes, peer support programmes, and services offered by OUSA.

“But we still have that Kiwi stigma of not asking for help. My message to students is that there is no harm in having a chat.

“We are not here to judge. We are here 100 per cent to support students. We work for you. Come and have a chat, the earlier the better.”

Gee said NZUSA had called for action on the Government’s commitment to free counselling for under-25s, referenced in the Labour-Greens Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“To make a meaningful change in the mental health of tertiary students, it will take all of us; students, staff, management and government working together to make a difference.”


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