The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for an overhaul of university mental health services after it was revealed that almost 2,000 students are on waiting lists for help.
Freedom of information requests from the party, submitted to all of Scotland’s universities, showed that as of March 29 this year at least 1,874 students were on waiting lists for counselling in the country.
This figure included 900 at the University of Edinburgh alone, with students at the University of Dundee taking second place with 228 in waiting.
The inquiries also showed that students at the University of Glasgow have faced waiting periods of 141 days for help, while those in Edinburgh waited 105 days at the longest.
Only four Scottish universities did not report any students on waiting lists; these were Aberdeen, St Andrews, West Scotland and Stirling.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the current model of counselling should be investigated in order to improve the experience of students looking to access help for their mental health.
He said: “Students have had a rough deal; confined to halls during the pandemic, tackling exams in difficult circumstances, missing out on opportunities to find themselves and meet new friends.
“The Scottish Government needs to look at whether the current model of counselling is sufficient and whether more should be done to connect university services with the wider NHS.
“University mental health services will also need protecting from SNP/Green plans to make real-terms cuts to higher education.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for new dedicated mental health staff in colleges, classrooms and GP surgeries across Scotland. The Government needs to stop treating people struggling with their mental health like second-class citizens.”
Minister for higher and further Education, Jamie Hepburn, said: “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.
“Over the last three academic years the Scottish Government has invested more than £11.5 million to introduce more than 80 additional counsellors in colleges and universities and we are well on way to achieving that.
“In addition we provided an additional £4.4 million for colleges to help student and staff respond to the pandemic.
“We are developing a Student Mental Health Action Plan in association with representatives from student organisations and colleges and universities, as well as mental health experts.
“This plan will incorporate a wide range of initiatives to improve student mental health and wellbeing.”