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Mental Health Impacts caused by the Pandemic


Sarah Marsh - August 5, 2021

Universities, the government and the NHS should plan for the mental health impacts of the pandemic to outlast the pandemic itself

 

You might feel uneasy as we are coming to the end of lockdown restrictions in the UK. Now more than half of the UK population have been vaccinated, and legally no longer required to wear a mask and social distance, it can feel too soon and uncomfortable. Also, you could be feeling overwhelmed with options and choices now you’re allowed to do more. You may not be ready for nightclubs, and other social events. We are here to tell you its okay to feel this way, you are experiencing the same feelings as many students. 74% of students report Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, so we understand that mental health goes beyond the scope of the pandemic and will outlast it. Leadership from Student Minds is here to help young minds.

Student Minds is a UK student mental health charity, as coronavirus (Covid-19) spread in March 2020, they began a period of listening and gathering insights from across Higher Education, they launched Student Space in August 2020. Student Space was developed to offer a combination of psycho-educational content and real student stories, which have now been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and people with limited access to tailed support. As the last 18 months have proven, mental health remains a continual process, and the rebuilding of young minds needs to continue after the pandemic as we return to ‘normal life’ or the ‘new norm’.

 

Experiences of Online Learning

 

Much of the past year has been virtual learning only and the idea of going into your next year or starting your university journey may not fill you with excitement. However, as the restrictions ease and some clarity has come out for students within the 21/22 academic year, it is expected that some teaching may come back to face-to-face but with an element of virtual learning still.

 

Overall, the experiences of online learning have been mixed and have changed throughout the pandemic as satisfaction levels fluctuated. Student satisfaction dropped by 59% in February and then again by 68% in Autumn. Finally, the official figure was that 82% of respondents felt like Covid-19 has negatively impacted their academic experiences. These are too high and as elements of learning continues to be virtual, the question is; Is online learning a viable option going forward for students? Student Minds have resources to help you cope with this change in learning.

 

Social Connectedness and Isolation

 

For many students, the feeling of being disconnected from family, friends and the university experience has been prominent. Additionally, contracting Covid-19 meant isolation for many – equally more time spent either alone or restricted to virtual conversations. Research independently done by Alterline with Student Space found that since March 2020 70% of students felt lonely. A clear mental implication that needs tackling going forward past the pandemic.

 

In Higher Education, student-led activities or opportunities should be increased from respective Students Unions to make additional funding available to support young minds. As ‘zoom fatigue’ becomes a barrier to online activities, it is thought the lack of social interaction has become a barrier to students joining in with sport and non-sport student societies. We recommend heading to your Student Unions websites and making contact about joining a society, to keep connected with your University and PEER’s.

 

Continued Support Post Pandemic

 

How can we help, and where can you find Student Minds and Student Space? We can help in many ways, by supporting and providing you with accommodation that fits your needs. Our close work with Student Minds is to improve the support we offer but also how we can make a difference too, as we are all in this together. Universities and Students’ Unions should ensure that all support services are equally and accessible to all students as recommended by the University of Mental Health Charter.

 

It has been found that 29% of students have engaged with mental health services, we want to help more people seek the support they need. Most common of these were GP and primary care services (49%) and online university services (40%). At Student Minds, they want to make it clear that seeking support is always positive and courageous. In discussing support, we hope to raise awareness but also make students feel listened to.

 

As stated, the government and NHS need to ensure the safety of young minds. After the pandemic comes to an end and the reforming of new normality starts. Ourselves and Student Minds want to also help contribute to this, so we are doing a walking challenge to raise money. Check out our JustGiving page to help the cause.

 

All information was sourced from Students Minds extensive report – we recommend taking the time to read it, it offers great insights and advice.