Vivienne Browne1, Jeremy Cass2*,
1 Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Victoria, 2052
2 RMIT Counselling Service, 124 LaTrobe Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000*
According to Australian and international research, university students are experiencing heightened psychological distress, in part due to academic and financial pressures, isolation, loneliness and poor self-care. The impact has been particularly felt across university counselling services, where increases in both service demand and severity and complexity of mental ill-health problems are putting significant strain on existing resources.
While Australian Government policy has driven increased participation and equity in higher education, little attention has been given to ensuring university settings respond effectively to risk factors and experiences of mental ill-health. Further, mental health and suicide prevention policies across all levels of government, have focused on providing support within primary and secondary school settings and largely ignored the role of tertiary education. This is despite the significant numbers of Australian young people who are engaged in these settings.
There remains contention about whether the core business of higher education delivery should extend to supporting student’s mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Regardless, universities across Australia have been independently developing policies and programs to respond to the myriad of mental health issues presenting on campus. Orygen’s Under the radar report calls for national leadership and guidance to support these efforts and work towards:
- Articulating the reasonable expectations for universities to respond to mental health issues on campus and models for partnership with community mental health services.
- Improving our understanding of these issues through research, data collection and monitoring.
- Promoting evidence-based, appropriate and acceptable programs and interventions.