As many UK universities in March went into lockdown teaching and student services started to be provided remotely and in lieu of face-to-face interaction many students experienced mental health challenges. From increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, students across the UK were finding it challenging to know where to turn for campus support and resources for services they may have not utilized before.
Research by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the University of Roehampton found that there was, as reported by the BBC, a “noticeable reduction in counselling for young people and children during lockdown, with counsellors who provided services in colleges and schools saying the hours of therapy provided before lockdown dropped just over one hour a week after restrictions were introduced.” This has led to psychiatrists fearing a “tsunami” of mental health cases as the pandemic continues to restrict resources and social movement. While some institutions were able to swiftly adapt to move to digital platforms to serve their students, other universities have paused due to concerns for providing care across geographical borders without knowledge on the resources and services provided locally to students.
The UK Office of Students, an independent public body, released a report in July on the impact COVID-19 has had on mental health, noting that students were less likely to seek mental health resources due to lack of accessibility, knowledge of where to get help, challenges at home, and more. “The pandemic has significant implications for effectively evaluating student mental health initiatives, due to the impact it is likely to have on incidence of mental health issues among young people, and the impact it is already having on help-seeking behaviors. Despite this challenge, it remains critical that higher education providers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that seek to improve student mental health.”
What can higher education institutions do?
- Institutions should communicate with their students about the resources available to them, as some students may feel disconnected from their university and unaware of the services provided. This can be done via websites, social media, snail mail, etc.;
- Mental health professionals should be open to video, email, texting, and phone call therapy in lieu of the lack of face-to-face interaction; and
- As the fall semester gets underway, prepare for an influx of students needing support that were maybe not sought after in the spring.
Institutions can prepare to best serve their students now and in the future through the use of Symplicity Advocate. 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.