As the new academic year begins, and people adapt to a new way of living, being back at university can be a major trigger for those living with mental health issues.
With the weight of the seemingly never-ending Covid-19 pandemic on all of our shoulders, many people are starting to feel a strain on their mental health – and students are right in the firing line.
After the Prime Minister decided to blame young people for the rise in Coronavirus cases, and now even further threat of being stuck at the university over Christmas, it seems students’ mental health is being forgotten about – and it is beginning to have dire consequences.
Georgia, 19, told of her struggles with managing her anxiety amid the pandemic, and the effects of returning to uni this year.
“When my anxiety is bad there are days when I cannot get out of bed and don’t want to move. I suffered some quite severe health anxiety when I realised that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, this got worse when I moved back to uni. I’m terrified of getting Covid and being stuck on my own.”
As a student who recently started her second year of university, Georgia was able to see how her university handled the dramatic switch from in-person to online teaching back in the height of the pandemic. However, she believes their approach was not the most successful.
“When classes originally went online it all felt very disorganised. I think my course leaders and lecturers really struggled to find a way to make online classes work.”
Since the new term began, she describes her situation as even worse.
“In my first week of the second year my anxiety was really bad, I would wake up feeling sick and go to sleep feeling sick, often with a panic attack somewhere in between.
With the university not giving us a lot of help, I found the workload a lot to deal with. I didn’t realise how big the jump between the first and second year would be.”
After a student from the University of Manchester was found dead in his student accommodation little over a week ago, and another from Coventry University found just three days ago, the need for student support is becoming urgent. Yet it still seems to be scarce among universities up and down the country.
“In one of our first lectures, we did a survey about how we felt about online studying. When the responses were shared with the class, the most common responses included words such as “depressed, anxious, lonely.”
“Yet our lecturer made no comment on these responses and simply continued to the next task. This shocked me, as I knew from speaking to friends and classmates that there are a lot of people struggling.”
Though Georgia is just one of the many students continuing their studies in 2020, there is more than enough evidence to show she is not alone in her views.
Many students have been taking to Twitter to vent their grievances about their universities’ handling of students’ mental health.
One wrote of her surprise that her university prioritised the health of students’ computers over that of their mental health:
absolutely obsessed w my uni posting top tips for a healthy… computer In A Pandemic… while we have at least 6+ conf cases they’re hiding from us while taking away the one uni mental health service for two days (that we know are probs gna turn into forever let’s be real) pic.twitter.com/wPCoJjeCKl
— Merry Kitmas 🎄 (@dyke_kit_) October 22, 2020
While another complained that their “replacement therapy” was music, due to the lack of mental health help at their uni:
listening to smoke signals by phoebe bridgers as replacement therapy bc the uni mental health services dont do shit 🤣😂🥴
— 🌹beth / 18 / teenage euro fan girl (@bethbaxendaleee) October 17, 2020
Another joked “if you’re feeling suicidal please wait till the next working day to inform us aha! X” in a jab towards their university mental health service’s opening hours.
Why are some Uni mental health services only available from Monday-Friday, between 9-5?? They really “if you’re feeling suicidal please wait till the next working day to inform us aha! X”
— Bhav (@bhavreetkd) October 14, 2020
While more complained of their own similar grievances:
uni mental health help be like: we are always here for u💗💗💗only during the hours of 8-4 tho💗💗💗and you have to send an email explaining why you need the help💗💗💗and speak to an advisor before we can give you counselling💗💗💗
— amelia (@ameliadianax) October 12, 2020
Student experiences up and down the country seem to prove that until universities begin to pay these issues the full attention they deserve, it is likely that many more students will suffer at the hands of their mental health – perhaps even fatally.
Words: Chloe Rose | Subbing: Sam Tabahriti
If you feel affected by anything discussed in this article, Samaritans can be contacted 24/7.