PSYCHOLOGICAL distress is rampant among Australian university and TAFE students.
Close to 70 per cent of students reported feeling stressed and anxious in a survey by Headspace and the National Union of Students.
Closer to home, University of New England students are feeling the pressure of balancing finances and study.
Uni4Me student advocate Tom Fisher said students are struggling to survive on limited pay while studying.
“A very high percentage of Australian students live well below the poverty line and that’s a worsening problem,” he said.
“There’s nothing that I’ve seen to suggest that is changing.”
The mental health survey looked at 17 to 25 year old students.
More than 35 per cent of those said they had considered suicide or self harm in the past 12 months.
Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said the results were alarming, but not surprising.
“Like all big life transitions, after finishing Year 12 young people can be more vulnerable, they are an at-risk group with no clear check-in point for mental health difficulties,” he said.
Moving out of home for the first time and greater financial responsibility was reported as a sign of distress.
“Some young people might engage in risky behaviours such as drug use,” Mr Trethowan said.
“They may have less parental contact leaving them vulnerable and changes in their mental health going unnoticed.
“They are a group that can fall through the cracks.”
National Union of Students welfare officer Jill Molloy said there were a number of challenges that impacted on student’s mental health and well-being.
“Workload, looming deadlines, relationship problems, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol use, it’s a long list that students themselves say have a detrimental impact,” she said.
University of New England Uni4Me advocates independently for students, helps them apply for Centrelink payments and deals with academic stress.
Student advocate Tom Fisher said a lot of students living in poverty do the best they can without seeking help.
“There’s a lot of pain out there,” Mr Fisher said.
“They’re facing what’s really on the minds of a lot of students and what’s stressing them is what’s stressing much of the general population. If you do work a lower paying job you have to work more hours to have a living above that Centrelink student payment rate – that’s less time for study.”
Students in need of academic or financial advocacy can contact Uni4Me in the UNE top courtyard.