SNP youth wing urges party to do more for student mental health

Caitlin Logan

Young SNP campaigners say student counselling funding review is needed

SNP YOUTH: Young Scots for Independence, the youth wing of the SNP, has called for a review of funding for student counselling in further and higher education.

With a new programme for government upcoming, SNP Youth has said it is time for the Scottish Government to commit to an increase in funding for counselling for students and reduce long waiting lists.

Chris Glendinning, a member of SNP Youth’s Mental Health Action Group, said: “Access to counselling can often be a deciding factor as to whether a young person continues in education or drops out because of mental ill-health. But increasing demand for support in recent years has stretched services to the limit.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities have longer waiting lists for counselling than any other university in the UK.” Chris Glendinning, SNP Youth

“Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, for instance, now have longer waiting lists for counselling than any other university in the UK, whilst only a handful of Scotland’s colleges have dedicated full-time counselling staff.”

This follows the release of figures this June, which indicated a dramatic rise in the number of students with mental health issues dropping out of universities in Scotland. The figures showed that 130 such students had dropped out of university in 2014-15, compared with 45 in 2009-10.

At the SNP National Council last year, young members were successful in gaining support for a resolution on the issue, which called for a review of funding for university and college counselling services.

Glendinning said it is time for that resolution to be put into action: “Last December the SNP’s National Council – whilst recognising the party’s strong record on transforming mental health care in Scotland – overwhelmingly backed our calls to review funding for mental health counselling services in further and higher education.

“The Scottish Government must use its upcoming programme for government to do more to improve mental health counselling at Scotland’s universities and colleges. Reviewing funding would be a crucial first-step towards ensuring that young people dealing with mental ill-health can access the vital support they need without delay.”

“I would hope every institution is taking their responsibilities to student welfare seriously.” Maureen Watt, Mental Health Minister

Responding to the calls from the young SNP members, Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “We want all students and young people to have access to a consistent high level of mental health support across the country, recognising the unique challenges they can face.

“Our new, ambitious mental health strategy sets out clearly how we can improve intervention, and ensure better access to services.

“I would hope every institution is taking their responsibilities to student welfare seriously and doing all they can to support their students’ mental wellbeing. Working with NUS Scotland, we have supported and funded a national mental health project in universities and colleges, Think Positive.

“This has seen institutions and students’ associations developing Student Mental Health Agreements, and the delivery of free mental health first aid training.

 “Our mental health strategy will see us take forward an initial 40 actions to shape change and ensure mental health has true parity with physical health. As part of that we will explore how Think Positive can be developed and built upon.

“And, we will continue to work closely with student and youth groups, to hear their views on how mental health support can be improved for students and ensure that institutions are playing their part fully.”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Government

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