Bristol

Bristol students protest at mental health 'crisis'

Students holding placards
Image caption The demonstration follows a mental health consultation by the university

Students have held a demonstration calling for more support for students with mental health issues at the University of Bristol.

Organisers said there was a "growing mental health crisis" at the university.

The university said the growing need reflected the national picture and it had increased "front-line support".

But Ruth Day, who helped organise the march, said services were "still badly overstretched".

Over the past 18 months, 11 students at the university are thought to have taken their own lives.

Miss Day said the march was organised by a collective of university societies who felt services were still "inaccessible".

She said: "When you get to access them they are fantastic but there are so many people with problems and they are having to wait as long as five weeks to be seen - these people may not be suicidal at the start but they are at risk.

"We had a really productive meeting with the university last week but we felt the need to take action as their recent consultation promised very little that was proactive or new."

Image caption Sophie Squire said universities needed to recognise the pressure students are under

BBC analysis suggests the number of students in the UK seeking mental health support while studying at university has increased by more than 50% in five years.

Daniel Brown, who was on the march, said: "Historically there has been a massive lack of investment in mental health and the usual excuses have been there's not enough money.

"There's a huge waiting list for counselling and the sessions are limited to a really short number of people - it is really in crisis and it's not there."

In Bristol the number of students seeking help has risen by 106% in the past five years - from 1,375 in 2012-13 to 2,827 in 2016-17.

At the same time the budget for mental health services has doubled to more than £850,000 in 2016-17.

A new wellbeing service has supported more than 1,100 students since the start of August and is currently working with about 700 students, the university said.

Image caption Daniel Brown accused the university of a historical lack of investment in mental health services

A university spokesman said: "We will continue to review and look to strengthen our service and welcome the active engagement of the Students' Union, campaign groups such as SOS, and our wider student and staff communities on this important topic."

Bristol now has three student centres open 24 hours a day and more than 50 staff looking out for those who are struggling.

The university said it invests £7.4m each year in "core wellbeing support services" not including additional support and those offered by the students' union.

If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, go online to bbc.co.uk/actionline or you can call for free, at any time to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066.

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