Historicising the "Crisis" in Undergraduate Mental Health: British Universities and Student Mental Illness, 1944–1968
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 75, Number 2, April 2020
- pp. 193-220
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This article explores how and why student mental health became an issue of concern in British universities between 1944 and 1968. It argues that two factors drew student mental health to the attention of medical professionals across this period: first, it argues that the post-war interest in mental illness drew attention to students, who were seen to be the luminaries of the future, investing their wellbeing with particular social importance. Second, it argues that the development of university health services made students increasingly visible, endorsing the view that higher education posed distinctive yet shared mental challenges to young people. The article charts the expansion of services and maps the implications of the visibility of student mental distress for post-war British universities. It suggests that claims that British higher education is currently in the midst of an unprecedented mental health "crisis" should be seen within this broader historical context, for while the contours of the debates around student mental health have shifted substantially, evidence that there was anxiety around student mental wellbeing in the immediate post-war years undermines accusations that contemporary students constitute a unique "snowflake generation."