Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

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We recognise the growing global need to find and implement the most effective ways of promoting wellbeing and good mental health from both a prevention and treatment perspective.

The crisis of student mental health and wellbeing

Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, one in six people over the age of 16 report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. Nearly half of adults self-identify as having a mental health problem with only two thirds of these having been diagnosed by a professional.

There is evidence that how people are coping with mental health problems is getting worse, as demonstrated by the increasing number of people who self-harm and/or have suicidal thoughts. It has been established that 50% of mental illness in adult life (excluding dementia) starts before age 15 and 75% by age 18.

It is not surprising then that student wellbeing has become a major issue for all universities, with growing recognition that students with clinically recognized levels of mental health difficulties are studying at university in larger numbers. The context for student support within universities has changed in recent years: the focus has expanded beyond teaching and research to an emphasis on the whole student experience. Furthermore, studying at university is perhaps the one time in an individual’s life in which work, leisure, accommodation, social life as well as pastoral and social support all exist in a single environment.

How Cambridge is focusing on the challenge

Cambridge, with its distinctive collegiate pastoral system and extensive central welfare provision, already offers considerable support for its students. Colleges often become a second family to students away from home and excel in welfare support. 

However, demand for mental health and wellbeing support across the student body is increasing exponentially and the continuing rise in this demand and pressure on central University and College services. Safeguarding the wellbeing of students requires greater focus on developing preventative strategies and action to institute wider systemic and cultural change in order to foster the long term and sustained wellbeing of the Cambridge community. For this to be effective, a whole collegiate University approach needs to be taken that will involve students, academics, administrators and support staff alike. We recognise the growing global need to find and implement the most effective ways of promoting wellbeing and good mental health from both a prevention and treatment perspective.

Our vision

We aspire to be a leader among higher education institutions, not only to ensure our students thrive while at Cambridge but also to empower our students to be adaptable and resilient enough to thrive in the wider world. 

  • To create an academic environment that enables all students to flourish at Cambridge; where individuals are able to realise their own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to the collegiate University community.
  • To take a leading role amongst HE institutions, not only in supporting students to reach their potential whilst studying at Cambridge but to cultivate adaptable, self-aware and independent individuals who are empowered with the knowledge, skills and resources to thrive in the wider world.
  • To create and maintain a safe, welcoming, inclusive and supportive community that fosters a culture of mutual respect, empathy and consideration.
  • To facilitate a collegiate Cambridge culture where all members are informed about and take collective responsibility for promoting positive mental health within the institution and recognising this as a key contributor to a successful teaching, learning and research environment.
  • To put in place preventative measures that raise awareness of mental health issues and that empower individuals to take proactive and positive action to support their own mental health needs.

Support student mental health and wellbeing at Cambridge

You can help realise our ambitions to support student welfare and mental health by donating online or to find out more please contact:

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Nathaniel Wright

Associate Director — Student Support