WE hear much today about the “snowflake” generation – over-sensitive, tremulous, mollycoddled (allegedly) – but, without doubt, young people today face pressures that were unknown or of lesser intensity to previous generations.

NUS Scotland says Scottish university students are suffering increasingly from mental health problems and that counselling for them is patchy. New figures show demand for counselling has almost doubled in the past five years, leading to stretched resources. In addition, services are uneven across the sector.

Some of the pressures facing young people today aren’t new: starting a life away from home, making friends, avoiding loneliness, finding digs, making ends meet with limited resources, and, last but assuredly (we trust) not least, performing academically.

But, today, there seem to be greater pressures that are felt with particular intensity. Expectations are higher and are heightened by social media, with its trenchant mockery of perceived inadequacy, cruel comparisons and obligation to be socially super, making many experiences competitive when they should be simple fun.

Financially, student life was never the time to amass riches but is now for many a painful exercise in penury, with the first prospect of graduation being a pile of debt, the clearing up of which requires a good job, which is far from guaranteed. At least students in Scotland do not have tuition fees, but they still need loans to furnish the necessities of life. Not so long ago, most students got not just grants but dole money in the vacations. Today, finding a part-time job on top of studying is a necessity for many when, in the past, it was more of an option.

Some students may have been ambivalent about going to university in the first place, but felt pressured to do so by parents, peers, teachers and even the Government.

Many and various, therefore, are the causes of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or insomnia, which affect academic performance and put students on a vicious cycle. This can lead to talent being squandered, which is good for neither the individual nor the country.

Mental health problems can be transitory. They can happen to anyone. They can often be treated. Temporary help or advice can enable students to carry on as before, meaning nothing has been wasted, and skilled contributors to the economy have been successfully nurtured.

That’s a result all round. Seen thus, counselling services are a valuable resource. Universities need to ensure they’re providing all they can, and Government needs to make sure such services are adequately resourced. We’ve no desire to wrap today’s students in cotton wool. But we do want to be there to help them through difficult times. They are the country’s future. They deserve the country’s support.