Parents who delay separation depress students

August 30, 2002

Unhappy couples who wait until their child has gone to university before splitting up may be contributing to growing depression among students.

The annual student wellbeing conference hosted by Strathclyde and Glasgow universities will today hear initial findings from a three-year study that confirm that students suffer from higher rates of depression and anxiety than the population at large.

Jonathan Leach, project manager of the Oxford Student Mental Health Network, said there was concern about the growing numbers of students suffering from depression.

Staff reported a range of problems including self-harm, drink abuse and panic attacks.

"One thing counsellors report very commonly is that parents split up when the child goes to university," Mr Leach said.

He said the student might think the split would not have happened had they not gone away. He warned that resources were not keeping pace with the rise in mental-health problems.

He said student counsellors were there "to deal with relationship and study problems, not psychiatric conditions. There's quite a concern that there are those who would benefit from some sort of intense psychotherapy."

Health service treatment could mean a wait of between nine and 12 months, he said, by which time a student might have failed crucial coursework.

Jane Orchard, a counsellor at Sheffield Hallam University and a speaker at the conference, said more funding was needed to underpin the government's 50 per cent participation rate target.

"It's right that there's wider access because lots of students with mental-health problems are highly intelligent. In a sympathetic environment, they can develop intellectually," she said.

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