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Let’s talk student money
Earlier this month I spoke to students, parents, and universities, as part of the government’s Talk Money Week.
The conclusion? It is starkly apparent that all of us with children studying at university – or whose children one day hope to – must do more to talk about students, mental health, and money.
The national state of student mental health is worse than any time in my 20 years of clinical work.
The recent Kortext State of UK Student Mental Health research revealed that nearly one-third of students have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. That is significantly more than the national average.
Financial anxiety is playing a major part of this negative spiral.
Things were difficult pre-pandemic, with tuition fees rising to more than £9,000 a year, future home ownership seemingly out of reach and hidden costs, such as textbooks, adding thousands.
This financial uncertainty had become one of the most common factors in my case work with students – leading in some cases to extreme mental health breakdowns.
Economic pressure has massively increased since the first lockdown as most students received no financial support.
Worse, many had to continue paying for housing they could not live in and face-to-face lectures they could not attend.
Students told us in the annual National Student Survey they were unhappy with their universities’ responses to blended learning, citing value for money as being an issue. This has had a significant impact on their mental health, and we cannot afford to turn our back on our young people when they need us most.
It is likely that this generation will be the one that pays for the pandemic. It’s time now to focus on how we can support them.
As a start, can we all simply start to have open conversations with our children about their education finances?
Money talk is still taboo for many in our society, and if Talk Money Week allows us to open those conversations, then that alone would make a real difference.
If we don’t, we will be letting down a generation.
Dr Dominique Thompson, student mental health campaigner and clinical advisor for Student Minds
For years Councillor Alastair Redman, a former Westminster Tory candidate, told us the Conservative party and Westminster were the answer to all our prayers.
But, ironically, now he’s going to stand as an ‘independent’ candidate in next year’s council elections – the same man who campaigned against Scottish independence, telling the Union was safe in the Tories’ hands.
Since it’s good enough for Mr Redman to go it alone and be independent, then it’s good enough for the nation of Scotland to go it alone and be independent.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as the saying goes.
Colin M Campbell, Port Charlotte, Islay
I write about the Achnamara earth tremor of Tuesday November 16.
The British Geological Survey maintains a series of earthquake monitoring stations around Britain, the only one in Argyll being in Lochavich. Seismograph readings are transmitted by satellite to Edinburgh for analysis – visit www.earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/helicorder/heli.html for real-time seismograms.
The seismogram for the Achnamara tremor can be viewed by following the link, selecting LAWE under Station, then Short Period, and the date. It occurred at a depth of 12 kilometres, and was of 3.3 magnitude on the Richter scale.
For comparison, the 7.9 Richter earthquake in Haiti on August 14 this year can be found under LAWE, very long period, and the date.
Tony Dalton, Lochavich, by Taynuilt
Change focus on qualifications
Recent government figures showed that job vacancies have hit a record high of 1.2 million, an increase of 20 per cent in the past three months. It’s seems like a no-brainer that our young people should be able to train to fill these roles.
Many of the sectors continuing to battle with skills shortages, such as construction, manufacturing and hospitality are reliant on level two vocational qualifications as a direct route into jobs in these industries.
Yet the government has failed to prioritise these lower level, work-ready qualifications, instead focusing their post-16 policy and funding at qualifications of A-level standard and above.
The government has a chance to close the skills gap and the disadvantage gap that is so significant among 16-19-year-olds, boost the economy and give young people the future they deserve.
But to do this, they must ensure a wide range of high-quality, employer-endorsed options are available at all levels.
Campbell Robb, chief executive, social justice charity Nacro
Don’t ignore pancreatic cancer
I’m writing to highlight the importance of learning the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Our new survey tells us that nearly a third of people in the UK would wait three months or more to see a GP if they had potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer – at least three times longer than recommended.
It also shows the pandemic is deterring people from contacting their doctor, with 31 per cent saying they would delay seeking help for longer than usual. Pancreatic cancer symptoms – which can include tummy and back pain, indigestion, unexplained weight loss and oily floating poo – are common to less serious health conditions and, tragically many people are diagnosed too late for lifesaving treatment.
In Scotland nearly 1,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.
I would urge anyone who experiences some, or all, of these symptoms persistently for more than four weeks to contact their GP. Early diagnosis is vital to give people the very best chance of survival.
Pancreatic Cancer UK has made a short video explaining the symptoms – www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/the-common-symptoms-of-pancreatic-cancer and our specialist nurses are available on our confidential support line on, Freecall 0808 801 0707.
Dianne Dobson, Pancreatic Cancer UK specialist nurse