Most uni students consider dropping out due to mental health

By Jessica Tyson

A new study shows around 56 percent of university students have considered dropping out of tertiary study after feeling overwhelmed, living with mental illness or fearing failure.

The Kei Te Pai? report released today by the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) surveyed nearly 2,000 students on their lived experiences in relation to mental health.

One respondent said, “Work [is] making me do too many hours but I can't quit because then I wouldn't have enough money to make it through the week.  But then I do the hours and I can slowly feel myself getting more stressed and tired, and more behind in my school work.”

Another respondent said “[I have] no community that I can rely on and feel a part of, [which is] the greatest cause of my anxiety and depression.”

NZUSA National President Jonathan Gee says the research offers a better understanding about why student mental health issues occur and its implications.

He says students enter tertiary education because they have high hopes for themselves and for their contribution to New Zealand but “in order to help students succeed in their future endeavours, we must address the mental health crisis that is stopping students from reaching their full potential.”

He is urging for action to be taken from government.

“We are calling for a culture change within our communities so that discussing mental health, accessing support services, and practicing self-care is a normalised part of everyday conversations,” says Gee.

“The pressure to succeed means that we have forgotten the important role of tertiary education in building community.”

The NZUSA is also calling for action on the government's commitment to free counselling for under-25s, referenced in the Labour-Greens confidence and supply agreement.

 “To make a meaningful change in the mental health of tertiary students, it will take all of us: students, staff, management and government working together to make a difference.”