Speaking recently to the parent of a university student, underlined the different stages that many young people are at when they arrive at university. Her daughter had lasted less than a week at her halls of residence. Freshers Week for her was an endless round of pre-drinks and then more cheap drinking in the student union, something she wasn’t used to.
As a county netball player she wanted to play in the netball team but was scared rigid by the “initiation” ceremony which involved more drinking “games” on the coach to the first match. She ran back to her room, called her mum and asked to be picked up immediately. While she continued with the course, she decided to live at home which was luckily within driving distance.
Is this an extreme reaction? Or have initiation ceremonies gone too far? However street-wise you think your children are, they are bound to come up against peer group pressure at university to drink excessively, have sex and take drugs. Thus it has always been. But, could cheaper booze, wider availability of drugs and more well-off students with larger budgets to blow be tipping the balance?
A recent survey by student accommodation specialists Unite, found that a high proportion of students did not discuss matters like these before going to university. The rolling of eyes and “it’s not like it was in your day” could be the reason why. Schools are focused on academic achievement and rarely cover the health and well-being side of going to university. Many students are now arriving at university with mental health issues large and small and are left to cope with the pressures without knowing where to turn without seeming like a "failure".
Bristol University has seen 10 suicides this year and James Murray, the father of Ben Murray who tragically died aged 19 in May, wants all vice-chancellors to sign a suicide prevention pledge.
University can be a totally enriching experience but the pressures are greater than ever before. Keep in touch with students and reassure them that they won’t always be having a great time. Most 18 year olds are not adults. Maybe the time has come for universities not to treat them as such and ask parents to opt in if they don’t want to be contacted if problems arise. We wholeheartedly support this campaign.