Student Mental Health and COVID-19
By Swansea Student Minds
Going to University is one the most exciting and nerve-wracking moments a student will experience – moving away from home for the first time, making new friends and exploring a new city. However, these are all factors that can also contribute to making this experience quite difficult. Moving to university is always sold as being the “best time of your life”, a place where you will “make friends for life”, and it is this rhetoric that can damage the mental health of an individual that isn’t having the experience that was sold to them.
For most, the experience described above is the reality. You move into your student accommodation, become great friends with your flatmates, make friends on your course and people you meet in societies. But what if this isn’t your situation? Many don’t get along with their flatmates, causing them to feel isolated and alone in a new location, without their usual support network around to help them through. In some cases, you may not become close friends with people on your course, adding to this feeling that your university experience isn’t how it’s meant to be. For students who travel to university, the task of forming friendships is difficult due to not living on campus like the majority of others. These matters are often not discussed before young adults start university, making it seem out of the ordinary when it happens. In fact, these issues are rather common – despite this, it does not make the experience any easier. Loneliness is a common feeling, however, there are plenty of options available to help with the adjustment and difficulties you may face!
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is the importance of student mental health and well-being. Before the pandemic, it can be said that the mental health considerations of young people were often overlooked and dismissed for being work-related or “part of becoming an adult”. Thousands of students across the UK are self-isolating due to COVID-19, many in small spaces where the option of going outside is not available. This situation can be disastrous if there is any conflict between flatmates – this can cause increasing rates of anxiety, incidents of panic attacks and for students suffering from depression, the outcomes can be fatal. Recently, student suicide rates have sadly been increasing, with known suicides in Manchester University as well as Cardiff. This simply proves that the pandemic is affecting all individuals in many different ways and university students are far from exempt. For many, the discourse amongst society about university students being the root cause for the increase in case numbers is also unhelpful. This creation of a blame society can be very damaging to mental health. Everyone’s lives have been completely turned upside down and the same is true for students, with courses mainly being taught online and activities for socialising, exercising being severely limited.
The Welsh Government announced on the 22nd of October an extra £10m to support students’ mental health and well-being – this funding boost is welcomed by all students and universities. However, this roughly equates to £30 per student, begging the question of how much of an impact this will have on student mental health services, as services are facing extreme demand, which has increased during the pandemic.
Student mental health in particular has a nasty stigma attached to it, which makes it difficult for individuals to speak out and seek help, be it from friends, family or professionals. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we take care of our wellbeing – here are some top self help tips to make a start:
- Value yourself – treat yourself with kindness and respect
- Take care of your body – drink water, eat healthily and exercise
- Learn to deal with stress – don’t put too much pressure on yourself
- Set realistic goals – understand your abilities and what you would realistically like to achieve academically
- Surround yourself with good people – find friends who are trustworthy and supportive
- Quiet your mind – try meditation and mindfulness
- Break up your routine – take a walk in the park or on the beach
- Keep drug and alcohol use to a minimum – use of drugs and alcohol is proven to have detrimental effects on mental illnesses
- Stay in contact with friends and family – particularly relevant if you find yourself feeling isolated from your flatmates
10.Get help when you need it – you are not alone
If you find that you require professional help, the Advice and Support Centre on campus offers impartial and confidential advice as well as representation, and can help with issues from mental health to housing and legal advice. They are currently running drop-in Zoom sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9:30 and 12pm – to contact, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.