UK student's mental health still impacted by the pandemic

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, reports concerning mental health have soared, with reports noting a significant impact on students.

Alice Holmes
6th December 2022
Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

TW: mental health

According to recent reports, the Covid-19 pandemic has had lasting and significant impact on the deteriorating mental health of students. This coupled with Cost-of-Living crisis, places students in a problematic and worrying situation.

Throughout the pandemic, due to health concerns, coping with loss, handling changing restrictions confusion and loneliness (to name a few), reports of those struggling with mental health concerns soared.

In April 2021, Mind, a registered charity, undertook research with almost 12,000 from England and Wales. From this, they discovered a third of adults and young people said their mental health got much worse since March 2020.

9 in 10 young people (88%) have said loneliness has made their mental health worse during the pandemic

Despite this, 1 in 5 did not seek support during the pandemic despite facing mental health concerns. Some people admitted to not feeling comfortable enough to reach out for support. This highlights a key issue about the stigma around mental health support.

The pandemic disproportionately impacted certain groups – with students being one of these. 9 in 10 young people (88%) have said loneliness has made their mental health worse during the pandemic. Whilst 59% of young people said they would enjoy school, college or uni more once restrictions eased, 21% disagreed and did not think they would enjoy returning to education.

This could be due to concerns around in-person teaching, uncertainty about restrictions, combating the contrast between isolation and socialising and many more.

During the pandemic, many young people missed out on their first years of university, taking GCSEs and A Levels, their graduation and many more key moments.

Recent reports have shown that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on student’s mental health. The charity, Nightline, has recorded a 51.4% increase in calls in 2020/21 and early data suggests this is set to increase. Numbers for 2021/2022 were 30% higher with a further 23% increase since the new academic year has begun. Nightline is a helpline staffed by anonymous student volunteers and has been running for more than 50 years.

They have reported an increase in callers discussing stress and anxiety. There has also been a rise in calls worried about finances due to the Cost-Of-Living crisis. The number of callers expressing suicidal thoughts has risen to 7.4% of calls.

Recent data from the Student Loans Company reports that 3,706 students are quitting their course

The policy manager at the charity Student Minds has said the majority of students have experienced, “significant disruption in their lives”, leaving them with feelings of “grief, loss, uncertainty and a lack of confidence. Current students experienced the transition into higher education very differently from their predecessors, and so they may feel underprepared for university life.”

Additionally, recent data from the Student Loans Company reports that 3,706 students are quitting their course, this could be down to difficult experiences with mental health translating into higher university dropout rates.

Rachel Sandby-Thomas of the Association of Heads of University Administration said universities were aware of the impact the pandemic has had on students, and were developing and improving mental health support, including staff training on spotting warning signs early, and partnering with the NHS on professional treatment.

Dominique Thompson an NHS doctor and author of student wellbeing books said, “anxiety continues to be driven by uncertainty about the world they live in, whether that is future opportunities, eco anxiety or political concerns, alongside day-to-day worries about cost of living, academic pressure and making friends. We cannot underestimate how important all these issues are for young adults, and how powerless they feel when faced with such huge challenges,” she said.

The Newcastle University Student Union offers free counselling appointments and support for student’s mental health and is available to all current students. They are open 9am-9pm Monday to Thursday and 9am-5pm on Fridays during term time.

You can also visit Nighline.ac.uk and Ming.org.uk for more support and information.

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