Students across Scotland will have access to more support to help them deal with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after research commissioned by Think Positive, an NUS Scotland project funded by Scottish Government, included a student survey of over 3,000 college and university students in Scotland.

The research was conducted alongside in-depth analysis of the mental health and wellbeing services of eight case-study institutions across the country.

It found that almost half of students surveyed (49.9 per cent) cited lack of money or financial pressures as negatively impacting on their mental health.

Now, the Scottish Government has announced additional funding to the tune of £1.32 million to support student wellbeing.

The funds will allow support staff to carry out more frequent checks to identify potential mental health issues, as well as wider welfare concerns, such as access to food deliveries and other necessities.

The funding will also help to increase the number of drop-in chats for students, which will offer counselling on a digital platform.

Staff will also be able to direct students to the appropriate services, including referring them to a clinician, if appropriate.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the funding during today's daily coronavirus briefing.

She said: “We know that students have faced some particular pressures since the start of the new academic term, many of them will be away from home for the first time, which is always a difficult adjustment for young people to make, but in addition to that they are having to adapt to new forms of learning and socialising, and of course many students have also had to deal with the challenges of self-isolation.”

The money will allow colleges and universities to enhance what they already provide and could be used to expand counselling services, deliver more support online or improve their ability to check on the welfare of students.

She said: “It should help all students get the right support whenever they need it.”

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said: “We want students and their families to feel reassured that practical and welfare support is in place, particularly given current circumstances.

“This extra funding will build on the support already in place, including the additional counsellors provided by our recent investment of £3.64 million.

“During the pandemic we have committed £6 million of funding to improve mental health throughout Scotland. And on Monday, we announced £15 million to respond to the mental health issues of children and young people. Students have access to all services available to the general population, including the Clear Your Head campaign to support people to take care of their mental health and wellbeing.

“We have also expanded the NHS24 Mental Health Hub so that it is now available 24 hours a day,  seven days a week, and increased the capacity of the Breathing Space telephone helpline and web support service.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said: “We warmly welcome today’s additional funding which will help to support students' mental health and wellbeing after a tough start to the academic year.

“The impact of COVID-19 on students has undoubtedly taken its toll – academically, financially and socially.

"Now more than ever we need to ensure that their mental health and wellbeing is looked after, and this funding is a welcome start to ensuring that every student who needs support, has access to it.

"We look forward to further details of how the funding will be allocated and spent.”

Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, James Dunphy said:

“Positive mental health is fundamental to students’ ability to progress and make the most of their education experience. We know the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of many students, both new and returning, and so we welcome this additional funding. 

“Colleges and universities have made great progress with the funding they have already received, employing additional counsellors to support students in need, and this additional funding will enable them to target their support in more flexible ways, including increased access to online services, crisis intervention, and wellbeing support for those in isolation.”