NHS helps record numbers of young people with their mental health as students return to universities

England’s top mental health nurse is urging students starting or returning to university to seek mental health support as soon as they need it, as new data show record numbers of young people are accessing support.

Access to NHS mental health services for 18 to 25-year-olds was almost a fifth higher in 2021/22 than pre-pandemic, while the NHS has seen a rise of almost a fifth in people being referred to mental health crisis services compared to pre-pandemic levels.

With young people continuing to deal with the fallout of the pandemic, Claire Murdoch, England’s mental health boss has urged students to contact a health professional as soon they feel they need help – and to not wait until Christmas when they return back to the family home.

NHS Talking Therapies can be accessed anywhere in England – students who aren’t yet registered to a GP practice close to their university can still access support by self-referring for support online.

The NHS is also trialling the rollout of mental health hubs across five student-friendly cities – where young people can access mental health support face to face and access immediate help, advice or onward referral.

The £ 3 million programme will cover Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, and North London and will close the gaps between university and NHS services.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, said: “Young people’s lives have faced enormous disruption over the last two years and life for students at university can be incredibly hard, which is exactly why NHS staff and partners have worked flat out to expand the help and mental health support available to young people.

“It is now easier than ever for students going to university to access help so please don’t be afraid to speak up.

“You may feel that you don’t want to burden others or are worried about what they might think, but the truth is – people care about you and they will want to help you.

“So I would urge anyone returning to universities in the coming weeks – or indeed any other young person – to seek out mental health support as soon as they need it because the NHS is here for you.”

More than 63% of young people wait two weeks or less to start treatment through the NHS’ Early Intervention in Psychosis pathway – above the target of 60%.

Record numbers of people are accessing talking therapies with NHS figures showing 1.2 million did in 2021/22 up 21.5 per cent from 1.02m in 2020/21.

Students can also access well-being and mental health support services including access to counselling through their universities.

The NHS also has urgent mental health helplines are for people of all ages. You can call for:

1. 24-hour advice and support – for you, your friend, your parent, or someone you care for
2. An assessment to help decide on the best course of care