Students today are under more pressure than ever before and while universities are working to keep up with the demand for support services, it can be unclear exactly what students want. We spoke to Ontario students to learn more about their stressors, behaviours, and what they really need. The following are the results from the anonymous survey, which provided new insights into how we can tackle the mental health issues on campuses.
What Are The Stressors?
While some stressors, like project deadlines, are obvious there are many other factors in play for students. They are facing immense financial stress from student loans and living costs. They are also dealing with career stress as they enter a job market where university degrees have become a minimum requirement rather than an added asset. Students are struggling with general anxiety and relationship problems as they are unable to balance their many responsibilities. Overwhelmingly, the top two stressors were school stress and financial stress, with over 50% of the students reporting one or both.
How Do Students Deal With Them?
We wanted to really understand how students are dealing with these stressors. Are they taking advantage of the services on campus or are they turning to other support systems like friends and family members? Is drinking and drug use so prevalent at universities because of the high stress environment? To find these answers we asked students how they presently deal with the issues they face at university. We found that students are overwhelmingly turning to friends and family to cope with the stress they are experiencing. Additionally a large portion of students are using exercise as a healthy coping mechanism to handle the stressors. While 14% of students reported using alcohol or drugs to cope, only 10% said they used the health and wellness services on campus. It is important to note that only 8% of students have ever sought counselling off campus.
Ever Considered Seeking Help?
We wanted to know if students ever considered seeking help to cope with their stressors. This, along with information about how many actually went to therapy, would allow us to understand if there are barriers for students seeking therapy. 51% of students said they had considered therapy. This, taken along with the fact that only 18% had sought therapy either on campus or off campus tells us that there are significant barriers for students seeking therapy.
Barriers To Seeking Help
We wanted to understand what barriers students currently face in seeking help. Cost of therapy is clearly a significant barrier for students as 29% stated their biggest barrier was the high cost of traditional therapy. There is also a large portion of students that didn’t feel they required therapy. This could be due to misconceptions about therapy and what it can help with or due to stigma. This is evidenced by the fact that 13% reported that stigma was their most significant barrier to seeking help. Finally, some students were skeptical about the efficacy of therapy or have had poor experiences in the past that have deterred them from seeking help now.