THE Scottish Government has faced calls to overhaul university mental health services, following the revelation that almost 2000 students in Scotland are currently on waiting lists for counselling.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that, as of March 29 this year, at least 1874 students were awaiting counselling - including 900 at the University of Edinburgh alone – while some students at both Edinburgh and Glasgow had waited over three months for support.

Commenting, Scottish LibDem leader Alex-Cole Hamilton said that the Scottish Government should look at whether the current model of counselling is sufficient, and whether more should be done to connect university services with the wider NHS.

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Calling for new dedicated mental health staff in colleges, classrooms and GP surgeries across Scotland, Cole-Hamilton added: “The government needs to stop treating people struggling with their mental health like second-class citizens.”

Responding, Scotland’s minister for higher and further education Jamie Hepburn told the National: “We know the period of lockdown has had a significant impact on student mental health. We are determined to support our students as we return to a more normal way of university and college life.”

Highlighting the Scottish Government’s investment of over £11.5 million over the past three academic years for over 80 additional counsellors in Scottish colleges and universities, Hepburn said that a new Student Mental Health Action Plan currently in development would incorporate “a wide range off initiatives to improve student mental health and wellbeing.”

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However, NUS Scotland president Ellie Gomersall told the National that “student mental health is in crisis”, and that a lack of clear, long-term funding for counsellors and long waiting lists for support has escalated the “terrifying reality” facing Scotland’s students.

Regarding the Scottish Government’s commitment to a Student Mental Health Action Plan, Gomersall said: “We are yet to see this plan in action.”

NUS Scotland research has indicated that 64% of students’ financial worries are impacting their mental health, while 22% are concerned about running out of food.

Gomersall commented: “As the cost-of-living escalates, we’re likely to see more students in crisis and distress unless the Scottish Government prioritises and secures funding for student mental health. “