Policy problem

September 29, 2006

"Mental health crisis on campus" (September 22) describes many of the kinds of pheno-mena uncovered in research we conducted last year.

Vulnerable people are being persuaded to enter education. We spoke to people with serious difficulties who had maintained that their key workers told them that they would be denied mental healthcare if they did not attempt education or work. In parts of the country, universities are providing more support for students than the statutory services. We were informed by one person that her social worker had told her to enrol at the local university to access counselling, as the National Health Service in her area did not provide any.

Our inquiries revealed institutions and students struggling in the face of an inadequate mental healthcare system. Despite these pressures, several people we know with severe and enduring mental health problems maintained that their universities were a good deal more helpful to them than the mental health services had been. But policymakers should not see it as a cheap alternative to appropriately funded care.

Sally Baker and B. J. Brown

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