High levels of mental ill-health among tertiary aged students needs to be addressed by the tertiary sector.
It’s now a well-known fact that over 75 percent of all mental illness emerges in individuals before the age of 25, and a quarter of Australians aged 16-24 are living with a mental disorder.
A significant proportion of young people grappling with mental illness are already at university, or have the potential to be participating in education at this level with the appropriate supports in place.
In an increasingly internationalised educational landscape, universities are widening their admission policies to enable students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds to access tertiary education. As a result, a diverse range of emotional and social challenges has emerged.
Universities are the principle incubators of future leaders and contributors to our society. Therefore the services and interventions promoting student mental health and wellbeing need to be of the highest quality.
Greater work is needed refining best practice mental health policies and models of care that are at work within our universities.
While successive governments over the past decade have been focussed on building the capability of the mental health sector at large, programs in universities and schools - where young people spend most of their time - have received very little attention.
The mental health and wellbeing of young Australians is far too serious an issue not to have clear, nationally binding leadership.
Robust Government policy needs to be developed to hold universities to account about their responsibilities in this area, and to provide greater direction around the way these institutions partner with the public mental health system and other service providers in the provision of care.
Screening for emerging mental illnesses and an understanding of overall student morale should be connected to the planning and coordination of services and programs at the university.