08.04.2024 | Statements

“I can’t take it anymore” is a sentence we’ve heard too many times – EU must make student mental health a priority

I feel anxious about the future. I feel like I’m good for nothing. I’m depressed and can’t get up in the morning. I’m stressed. I can’t take it anymore.

This is the message we hear from students in discussions and surveys and on social media.

The National Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences SAMOK and the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) demand that the European Union make tackling the mental health crisis among students and young people a priority in its health programme. The EU also needs to develop a more comprehensive mental health strategy that includes young people and students as a specific group. The current EU mental health strategy does not include students. 

The consequences of the pandemic, the climate crisis, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the genocide in Gaza, the rising cost of living, unemployment, social expectations and the pressures caused by the digital environment and social media are only a few of the factors causing anxiety, fear and unhappiness for students in their everyday lives. Students and young people need to be able to have faith in the future. That is the responsibility of the entire European Union.

“In order for young people to have faith in the EU’s ability to act in crisis situations, the EU must assume a strong role in tackling the mental health crisis,” says Lauri Kujala, SAMOK’s President.

According to the 2021 higher education student health survey (KOTT), approximately 50% of students have experienced psychological stress, while 35% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. When comparing to the entire population, the corresponding percentages were 23% (20–29-year-olds) and 18% (30–39-year-olds) according to the FinSote2020 survey.

“Too many students experience burnout or psychological symptoms. If we continue like this, we won’t be able to make healthy employees out of our students anymore. The EU could also respond to students’ concerns about the mental health crisis,” says Akseli Tiitta, President of the SYL.

The Eurostudent VIII survey (2022) tells the same story. Almost a quarter (23.1%) of the survey respondents reported mental health problems. Of the people who experienced mental health problems, almost 90% stated that these problems had interfered with their studies in some way. The high demand for mental health services was not just a post-pandemic surge, as there seems to be a constantly growing need for help and support among students and young people. Based on the statistics of the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS), January 2024 saw the highest number of mental health-related calls to the FSHS compared to the same month in previous years.

In order for young people to be able to trust the EU, the EU should act and give them a reason to have faith in the future. As a student movement, we ask that the EU become a forerunner in addressing wider global themes, such as combating climate change, but above all in tackling the mental health crisis by, for example, acknowledging students in its comprehensive mental health strategy as their own group. The EU could make significant, targeted investments into work that promotes student health and mental health through flagship initiatives. The upcoming elections are particularly important as the European Union has the power and, above all, the resources to address societal issues. It is time for the students’ voices to be heard on all levels of EU decision-making. 

For further inquiries, please contact:

Lauri Kujala
President, SAMOK
[email protected]
+358 50 389 1000

Akseli Tiitta
President, SYL
[email protected]
+358 44 906 5004

The election day in the Finnish European Parliament elections is Sunday, 9 June 2024. Advance voting takes place in Finland from 29 May to 4 June 2024 and abroad from 29 May to 1 June 2024.