The campus in the age of Covid: How pandemic impacted students’ mental health - and support available

Students across the UK were impacted by the Covid pandemic, with social activities restricted and many having to learn from home

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The Covid pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of many, with people across the UK having to adapt to new rules and restrictions on everyday life, including those affecting work, social activities and even studying.

University students across the UK have been impacted by the pandemic, with many required to learn from home instead of on campus. While those in students halls have had to adapt to Covid measures while living away from home for the first time.

But how has the pandemic affected the mental health of university students - and how might it further impact on this when students return for the new term?

Sara Khan, NUS’ Vice President for Liberation and Equality, said it has “certainly exacerbated mental health issues” as many students have struggled to find work, access their courses and access mental health services.

This notion is echoed by Stevie Goulding, parents helpline manager at the charity YoungMinds.

She said: “Going to university can be stressful at the best of times, especially if you are without your normal support network, but the pandemic has made this past year harder than ever.

“At the very least, after an extended period of remote learning many will be feeling anxious about going back to face-to-face lectures.”

Yousuf Khursheed, 19, is a student at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, who believes face-to-face learning is more advantageous than doing so virtually, as it provides numerous benefits, including being able to meet new people and participate in societies.

However, he noted that some may find the move back to studying on campus a “challenge”.

He said: "As a university student about to go into my third year I have spent more time studying virtually than on campus.

“Although I believe that online learning has benefits, I think face-to-face teaching provides students with a larger incentive to get out of bed in the morning. A traditional on campus education makes socialising and meeting new people much easier. It allows students to fully participate in the various societies and clubs that exist outside of the lectures and tutorials.

“Getting back into this routine will be a big transition for many and no doubt will be a real challenge. However I think overall students’ mental health will really benefit from on campus learning."

‘The last year and a half has been very turbulent’

For those who are struggling with the prospect of returning to university and face-to-face learning, psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer says this feeling of uncertainty is “completely understandable as the last year and a half has been very turbulent”.

She advised that as “we don’t know what the future will bring” it may help “to take things day by day, just as you would with any other challenging time”.

Dr Gummer suggests that even if you are currently feeling happy and healthy you should try to check in with yourself on a regular basis so that you can spot any signs that something isn’t right.

She said a helpful way to do this may be by using a daily mood tracking app, as some will also let you record what activities you have done that day so you can see “what might be making you feel particularly good or bad and make positive changes”.

YoungMinds advises that young people struggling at university stay connected with the people they trust, and that if they are worried about what’s going on, contact their university to see if they can offer reassurance.

“Going to university can be overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to reach out and seek support for your mental health if you need it,” said Ms Goulding.

If you’re struggling you can also reach out to the YoungMinds text line by texting YM to 85258 for support from trained volunteers.

Anyone can also contact Samaritans free at any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Alternatively, you can visit the Samaritans website for more information.

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