Call to scrap mental health costs for students
The Royal College of GPs has called on the government to make students exempt from paying for prescription costs related to mental health conditions.
Budgeting as a student is hard enough, but what if you're having to regularly splash out on expensive mental health prescriptions on top of all the other costs that the maintenance loan struggles to cover?
Or worse still – what if you can’t afford to pay for a prescription that you crucially need?
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) have told the BBC they'd fully support a decision to make students exempt from paying out for mental health-related prescription costs, claiming that “any barrier” that gets in the way of a young person getting the prescription they need should be removed.
1 in 50 students in England have officially registered a mental health condition with their university, but in reality, this number is much higher – many just won't report it.
In fact, a new study claims that nationally, the figure is more like 1 in 3 students. But whilst Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all benefit from free prescriptions, students and England have to foot the costs themselves.
How much are students spending on mental health?
Students in full-time education in England aged 16-18 currently get free prescriptions, but once they turn 19, they need to start paying the basic cost of £8.60 per prescription.
Students in England can apply for full or partial discount on their prescriptions if they fall within a low income bracket, but many students don't qualify for this.
Steve Buckley, a clinical pharmacist from Manchester points out that finding the right medication for an individual can take time, and normally involves trialling a few different medications until a person finds one that works for them – meaning costs can fair add up!
If you're likely to need more than three prescribed medications in three months, you can save money with a prepayment certificate which costs £29.10 for three months.
But Charlie, a 23-year-old Leeds Uni students with bi-polar disorder, told the BBC that the pre-payment certificate doesn't always work as you often avoid shelling out the £29.10 in case you don't need to.
You don't realise at the time you might be trialling 10-15 types of medication before you find the right one.
When you first get a prescription you almost feel like you don't need a pre-payment certificate.
It's only when you get to prescription number six or seven when you think, ‘This is getting ridiculous now.'
Even in the first two months alone I spent £100 on prescriptions.
Do money worries play a part?
In 2015, there was a staggering 28% rise in students seeking counselling for mental health problems compared to 2011 – when tuition fees tripled. This has caused some university counsellors to suggest there's a link between rising fees and mental health issues in England.
Our Student Money Survey also threw up some worrying statistics: 8 in 10 students told us they worry about finding enough money to make ends meet each month, 56% said worrying about money affected their grades and 65% said it affected their diet.
Do you think prescriptions related to mental health conditions should be free for students?