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Stress: cause for concern

The Government has set a target of 50 per cent access to higher education by the year 2010 (already attained in Scotland). This has quite naturally led to a rise in the UK's student population.

Many of these students are feeling the pinch both academically and financially. As a result, more of them are seeking counselling support for a variety of often complex emotional and psychological issues.

There is quite strong evidence that among those receiving counselling, the percentage experiencing "severe distress" is rising every year.

Despite this, counselling services have not yet been expanded sufficiently to cope with the increasing student numbers. Over the last six years, counselling services in further and higher education have had to limit the number of sessions per client in order to meet demand, and the average counselling budget per person has actually fallen in real terms.

Recent reports by The Royal College of Psychiatrists into the mental health of students, and the Association of University and College Counsellors annual survey of student mental health have shown that students leaving FE frequently cite depression and anxiety as reasons for their inability to continue studies.

There is a strong argument to suggest that had more counselling been available to these students, they might have been able to stay on their course(s).

As the work of John and Richard Bowlby shows, we need to promote a wider understanding of the rapidly growing body of research on the early attachment relationship between parents and their young children. A recent paper by The Royal College of Psychiatrists highlighted the significance of separation anxiety and the emotional demands of the transition from home to school or the less structured environment of college.

These and other issues on "the ties that bind" will be highlighted at this year's annual conference of the Association of University and College Counsellors Lewis Edwards British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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