Use of University Counselling Service increases

There were notable increases in problems presented relating to anxiety, self and identity, and transitions

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The number of students using the University’s Counselling Service has increased, new data has revealed. 

According to a freedom of information request (FOI) seen by Cherwell, 1,372 students used the services in the academic year 2016/17.

This represents a 4.5 per cent increase from 2015/16, which in turn was an 8.2 per cent increase from the previous academic year.

An Oxford University spokesperson told Cherwell: “A variety of factors affects the number of students accessing counselling services each year.

“These include increased awareness of mental health problems, a reduction in stigma for such conditions as depression and anxiety, and greater awareness of the types of the mental health support available to students.

“There has also been a large increase of earlier diagnosis and concern about mental health at a secondary school level and many students arrive at university with pre-existing mental health problems or have already had counselling at school.”

The data also showed marked increases in the number of students presenting issues relating to anxiety, self and identity, and transitions.

569 students presented problems relating to anxiety in 2016/17, a 10.5 per cent increase on the 515 who did so the previous academic year. The number also represents a 39.8 per cent increase from the 2014/15 figure.

The University spokesperson said: “Perfectionism is a key driver behind many mental health problems, including anxiety. This is not an issue unique to Oxford, but one that the counselling service is sensitive to.

Over the last ten years the service has shown constant figures year on year demonstrating its effectiveness in terms of reducing symptoms of anxiety and other conditions.”

256 students came forward with issues categorised as ‘self and identity’, a 5.3 per cent increase on last year, and a 16.9 per cent increase from 2014/15.

Similarly, 89 students presented problems relating to transitions, a 27 per cent increase on the 2015/16 total.

The University’s spokesperson said: “The benefit of the Oxbridge collegiate system is the level of welfare support in each of the colleges and halls as well as the more professional clinical central welfare services.”

They added: “Oxford has a very large and highly valued peer support programme, [and is] seen as an example of good practice across the UK HE sector.”

Despite the increase in the number of students using the services, the total running cost for them has decreased by £27,500 since 2014/15. £1,000,100 was spent on the services in 2016/17, compared to £1,027,600 in 2016/17.

The University spokesperson said: “There has been no cut back in staffing or the level of counselling provided to students.

“There have been some savings in running costs, while staff training and professional development costs have been taken out of the departmental budget and transferred to a central fund. 

A recent FOI request across the whole higher education sector showed that the University of Oxford spent more on mental health provision and on the central counselling service than any other university in the UK.”

A St. Anne’s student told Cherwell: “The Counselling Service was incredible for me. It helped me more than anything else to get out of my own head, which it is very difficult to do at Oxford, and I now have the email of the counsellor I saw before in case I ever want to go back.”