As winter rolls through the United Kingdom, university students are facing unprecedented hurdles to success: being isolated with flatmates they hardly know, experiencing “Zoom fatigue” as they keep up with distant learning, potentially balancing parenthood, financial stresses, not being allowed to travel to see their families for another week, campus unrest, and the uncertainty that has created numerous stressors on students across the academic spectrum, let alone on their academics. As the U.K. continues into lockdown 2, it’s sadly no surprise that students have been handling increased levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. According to new research from the University of Bristol the number of young people with anxiety doubled from 13% to 24%, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown 1.
Co-lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Pearson, Senior Lecturer in Psychiatric Epidemiology and the University of Bristol in a press release said:
The findings suggest that there is a need to protect mental health at this time (especially managing anxiety) and support mental health services. It is especially important to learn lessons from the first lockdown now that we are in a second lockdown. The findings also provide evidence for supporting specific groups at greater mental health risk, such as those living alone. Support bubbles for single adults and single parents (which have been allowed from the outset this lockdown) could be beneficial to mental health, but we need to understand the role of social isolation better.
Additionally, professor David Porteous, Principal Investigator for Generation Scotland said,
“This study shows beyond doubt how COVID-19 is affecting mental health, particularly in younger people… The study shows that indirect effects of COVID-19 are profound and widespread and felt most acutely by young adults. They as much as any group will bear the long-term brunt of the COVID experience and post-pandemic recovery.”
Further evidence out of the National Health Foundation found that young people were more likely to report stress arising from the pandemic as whole and more likely than any age group to report hopelessness, loneliness, and not coping well and suicidal ideation. This, the study found was related to the truncated education, diminished job prospects, reduced social contact with peers, and increased isolation during lockdown 2.
Thus, it is critical that universities across the U.K., and around the globe, place special measures to ensure that student mental health doesn’t slip through the cracks.
Mental health concerns, coupled with rising tensions on campus and academics, only reinforces the urgent need for comprehensive student mental health support now and to prepare for the residual impacts in a post-COVID world. With Symplicity Advocate, institutions can prepare to best serve their students now and in a post COVID-19 world. Our solution helps with early intervention to proactively identify and support students who need help, ranging from mental health issues to financial advice. With automated case management, robust reporting, configurable workflows, and our unmatched client support, institutions can have all the information they need in one place to enable them to help students faster and build a safer community. This includes seeing which staff member is working with which student, setting up virtual counseling sessions, and providing students with proactive tools to help them cope through this time. Providing student wellbeing must be a top priority for all higher education institutions to ensure student success.