University counselling services are struggling to cope with rising numbers of severely disturbed students, a report revealed this week.
Counsellors say that greater pressures are being placed on their departments, often because of student access policies.
"Increasing numbers of students since 1992 have created a busier, less personal study environment which requires that students possess greater mental robustness and an ability to work independently," says the report, Degrees of Disturbance, from the Heads of University Counselling Services.
"For many students, teaching staff are distant people to whom it is hard to gain access, and it is possible for students to undertake their studies with few, if any, staff members being aware of their psychological wellbeing."
Ravi Rana of University College London's counselling service, who wrote the report, said that quantifying the problem was virtually impossible. But she said the report had gathered substantial anecdotal evidence to show that more students were suffering from severe mental disturbance.
"This puts more strain on our resources, leading to a poorer service for young people," she said.
In many places, student numbers have doubled without any corresponding rise in counselling provision. Every year there are casualties, Dr Rana said, but vice-chancellors are reluctant to release figures about student suicides because of harmful publicity.
In addition, counselling services are being expected to mop up an overspill of patients from the national health service.