Some universities need to triple their funding for mental health services if they are to meet growing demand from students in need of support, according to a new report.
The paper by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) says the scale of the mental health problem among university students is "bigger than ever before" and the Universities are struggling to cope with the rising demand for mental health services for students.
The report entitled The Invisible Problem? Improving Students' Mental Health, says the majority of students experience low well-being. While depression and loneliness affect one in three, more than one in 10 have a diagnosable mental illness; and the number of student suicides has risen.
Counseling could help student before the concern becomes a crisis. Evidence shows that counseling services are highly effective, but student-to-counselor ratios can be three to four times lower than the required number. Therefore, according to Hepi, those universities spending the least need to increase funding threefold.
Nick Hillman, Hepi director, said: "Mental disorders are most common in young adults, just at the age when many people become students. Going to university can be stressful, especially for first-in-family students. Typically, you lose your established support networks, move to a new part of the country and take on large debts. Occasionally, it even ends in tragedy.
It is vital that people entering university for the first time know that support is available, that any problems can be shared, and that asking for help is normal.
Universities UK's chief executive, Nicola Dandridge, said: "It must be a core part of the offer to students, parents and staff as well as to local and national stakeholders. Student well-being must be at the heart of the university."
The report's author, Poppy Brown, a third-year student at Oxford, added: "A majority of students experience low well-being and over one-in-ten have a diagnosable mental illness. The scale of the problem is bigger than ever before."
"Yet support is hard to access, universities often underfund their counselling services and the NHS does not recognise how vulnerable students are. We need to tackle these problems." she added.
As well as increased spending, the report recommends that students should be allowed to register with one doctor at home and one at university to ensure continuity of care; universities should adopt mental health action plans to improve their service; and all staff who have regular contact with students should be given mental health training.