In the United Kingdom a degree in architecture opens a lot of very promising doors. However, the force and resilience required to obtain such a degree is taking its toll on many UK students. The main reasons for the mental health issues are because of the stress from the demanding high workload and the fear of the sword of debt hanging above their beds. The findings of Architects journal annual student survey have reported that 26% of architecture students suffer from a stress related illness.
The illness seems to be more prevalent in women with just under a third reporting cases of the illness in comparison to men of whom 23% responded declaring they had looked for support for their mental health problems. The main cause of the health issues was due to the loss of sleep as demanding workloads required students to often work through the night. Sleep deprivation has been found to decrease life length and increase irritability which in turn leads to stress. Money is also a main contributor to the issue as 40% of students reported that they thought they would still be paying off their debt on their death bed.
“High fees, debt, the fear of debt, low wages, poor working practices and educational models that reflect aspects of practice based on individualism and competition rather than collective action and mutual support have put intolerable pressure on those students who can still study and has excluded many more,” said Robert Mull, former architecture director and dean of London’s Cass school.
Whilst a quarter of students reports they had sought help for their mental issues, 52% of students declared that had concerns about their own mental health due to their course. Undergraduates were claiming that they were suffering from hair loss among other problems such as but not limited to UBS. The problem is well known as Anthony Seldon, the vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham stated ‘”Britain has a near epidemic of mental-health problems among its students. Those studying architecture appear to be under added burdens emanating perhaps from the very length of the course and time taken before earning a proper income. Much could be done to rethink the courses so they align with the architectural education needs of the future rather than the dictates of the architectural big cheeses of the past.”
The problem of mental health is becoming more common amongst the younger generation of our Universities. It is a problem that university staff is noticing, some of whom are claiming that it could be the ‘disease of the generation’. Architecture students are probably not alone with their suffering as students of different degrees struggle with the same issue of mental health.