Student debt: The genie is not in the bottle

moneyStudents at university suffering with debt are being encouraged to seek help as a new study finds them to be at greater risk of alcohol dependency.

Research conducted in partnership by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust discovered students suffering with financial woes were highly likely to develop mental health problems such as depression and alcohol dependency during their first year of study.

Katie Lee, head of student guidance and wellbeing at the University of Stirling, spoke to Brig about the services available to Stirling students to deal with such issues.

She said: “It’s really important that debt isn’t ignored as it can build up and become even more unmanageable and worrying. Coming to see an adviser is a great first step to tackling the problem.”

The university’s student support team offer an array of services for students in dealing with a variety of issues, including holding drop-in sessions on a weekly basis to provide advice.

Katie outlined some of the different services students can access, including expert advice sessions, and emphasised the impact debt-related issues can have on students and their education.

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Katie Lee, head of student guidance and wellbeing.

She said: “During these confidential advice sessions, we give students the opportunity to talk about their debt and what they are dealing with in a safe environment.

“We work with students to help form a plan that’s tailored to their individual needs and that will help them feel in control of their finances again.

“We can point students in the direction of impartial, trusted money saving websites for vouchers, money back schemes and tips and tricks, and flag up instances when they can make use of that invaluable student discount.

“It’s important that students are also aware of ways they can maximise their income and we can help explain some of the funding and financial support options that may be available to them.”

This advice comes as the study – in which more than 400 first-year undergraduates from across the UK took part – found that students considering abandoning or not attending their studies developed harsh and deteriorating symptoms over time.

Dr Thomas Richardson, who led the study, said: “The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake.

“Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”

Reflecting on alcohol as a now modern day ‘coping’ method, Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware highlights that seeking answers from the bottom of a bottle will only make problems much worse.

She said: “While alcohol can have a temporary positive impact on mood, regular, excessive drinking can have long-term implications for students’ mental health.

“Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals that affect mood. This can lead to increased anxiety and stress, and even depression.”

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