Although there has been a huge increase in the numbers of students disclosing mental health conditions over the past 5 years, a Unite Students survey (1) identified that of all students who had mental health issues only 53% disclosed their issues to university. This, then shows that figures of student mental health are underestimated. Furthermore, an Office for Students report in 2019 (2) showed that females were 2% more likely than males to report their mental health difficulties to their university . This report also showed that students from an Asian background were the least likely to disclose their mental health difficulties. Furthermore, the BAME individuals who decided to disclose their difficulties to their university, were then likely to have lower levels of attainment. BAME students also have the lowest continuation rate of courses after they have disclosed.
Reports suggest that one barrier to disclosing could be the lack of clarity within the process of disclosure. For more information about this please see our webpage "Disclosing a mental health condition".
Our "I Chose To Disclose" campaign was launched in 2017 to try and dispel myths associated with the perceived dangers and disadvantages of disclosure, and equip current and prospective students with mental health conditions to make an informed and confident decision about sharing information with their university about their mental health.
Why is it important?
The primary purpose of encouraging disclosure of mental health conditions and other disabilities is to ensure that students are able to access additional support to which they may be entitled while studying. While not all students who disclose a mental health condition will be entitled to receive Disabled Students Allowances support, generally those with conditions deemed to be substantial, long-term and re-occurring will be. And for those students unsure as to whether their condition meets these criteria, disclosure can be a way of finding out. Additionally, these students are protected by the Equality Act, and should be able to access a range of adjustments designed to "level the playing field" - for example, exam accommodations, alternative assessments or flexible deadlines.
Half of all mental health issues appear around the age of 15 and then 75% by the age of 24, therefore, for many their years in education are also at a time when they may be coming to terms with a new diagnosis, a mental health condition may be emerging and/or they may be accessing external support for their mental health. By disclosing a mental health condition, students are put in contact with the appropriate support staff professionals at their school/college/university, and provided with any necessary support. This may include risk/safety planning, liaison with local NHS services, 1-1 support, exam and other teaching/learning accommodations .
The Government has recognised that for young people with mental health conditions early intervention is vital in ensuring their long term health and to stop issues escalating (3).
We want to:
- Increase the information available for current and prospective students about what happens if you disclose a mental health condition to the university.
- Remove the barriers and empower students to make an informed decision about whether they choose to disclose or decide not to
- There is no right or wrong decision in disclosing and it is a unique and individual choice. However, seeking support from a university had a positive or very positive effect on work/study for 78% of students and 74% of staff who had chosen to disclose - ECU Report (2015)
- Dispel myths associated with the perceived dangers and disadvantages of disclosure.
1) New Realists Insight Report, Unite Students, 2019
2) Mental Health: Are all students being properly supported?, Office for Students, 2019
2) Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision, Department of Health/Department of Education 2017.
We would like people who have disclosed - of all ages and backgrounds - to take part in the I Chose to Disclose Campaign!
Throughout the year, we will be sharing stories from those who have disclosed a mental health condition via our social media accounts and website. We'll be targeting cohorts of students we know are under-represented in disclosure statistics, such as men and BAME students and hope to build a bank of positive case studies to share.
If you are a student, or have recently graduated, and would like to take part, please complete our contact form and we will be in touch. We'll be asking you to share your experiences in a format you feel comfortable with.
If you would like to help us promote our campaign, please download and use our resources below.