Austerity, University and Mental Health

In terms of mental health recovery the importance of education is often dismissed. True, many who find themselves leaving the schooling system due to mental health difficulties will not find themselves back in education, however there are many that do.

At 14 I had to leave school for a year after I was admitted into an adolescent psychiatric unit following a suicide attempt. I luckily managed to get a place at a tutorial college to continue my education a year behind. However, many aren’t able to nor want to go back to education.

For me, education offered a structure that is incomparable to any other route I could of take. There weren’t the responsibilities and pressures of a job (It’s fairly difficult to get ‘fired’ from education) but there was a structure which sitting at home would not have offered me. School, although difficult and stressful at times really aided me in my recovery.

This is why I chose to go to university – I still often suffer from bouts of depression and the only viable option I could see for myself was to go to university. It gave me not only the freedom that I craved but the structure also. Which is why I’m so saddened that many people who are In the position I was in won’t be able to make it on to university thanks to Mr. Osborne’s new budget.

The £12bn welfare cuts are astonishing in themselves – with many of these cuts coming from areas that will hurt young people. Cutting housing benefits for under-21’s will potentially put 17,000 young people out on the streets. Cutting child benefits for those on a low income with more than two children also shows an astonishing lack of compassion.

However, the most harmful to myself and many of those I know is the change in university finance and university tuition fees, which demonstrate the elitist mind-set at the core of the budget. The proposed plan to change the maintenance grant to a loan makes university an unrealistic goal for so many. As it stands, with a maintenance grant I will be in an excess of £45k worth of debt when I finish my undergraduate degree. The thought of this staggering debt I’m already in gives me an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and I think, if I was going to go to university in 2 years when these changes will occur would I actually go to university?

University has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It has given me a true sense of myself and also given me a slow introduction to independence, for someone with unstable mental health as myself, I cannot imagine being thrown in the deep end.

I’m angry, and I’m sad for the future of our society. Young people are meant to be the future – so why are we making it harder for them to thrive? Why are we taking the chance away from those in more financial difficulty to pursue an academic route? To me it just doesn’t make sense.