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Universities across the UK are facing a mental health crisis – but is enough being done?

Students COVID issues

In an academic year filled with uncertainty, confusion and endless challenges, university students have felt a huge impact from the pandemic. But, the results from a recent survey from @SaveTheStudent indicate that there could be further difficulties ahead unless changes are made – particularly regarding the support available to students with mental health issues.

The Students & COVID-19 survey from November 2020 asked over 2,000 students how they really felt about the pandemic. Shockingly, among those surveyed, as many as two in three said that their mental health had suffered due to coronavirus.

Mental health issues among students

With the majority of students in the survey feeling that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, education providers and the government undoubtedly need to be taking this issue seriously.

In fact, some have expressed concerns that there is a “mental health crisis” occurring in UK universities this year.

A first-year student in the survey said:

“I don’t think the government is fully acknowledging the mental health crisis at the moment that is happening everywhere, but I feel is especially prevalent in students.”

Similarly, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice President (Higher Education) said:

“These findings are no surprise.

“Students are facing severe hardship, and have been left out of support available to other parts of society.

“The actions of universities, locking down and fencing in their students, have only served to make the student mental health crisis even worse.

“Students have been let down at every turn of the pandemic, and we deserve better.”

Further statistics from the survey provide indications of just how difficult the year has been for students, potentially contributing to such a high percentage reporting mental health issues due to the pandemic.

For example, 42% said they have needed to self-isolate. This statistic is most likely linked to another very concerning finding: just under a half of students in the survey said they were ‘really worried’ about loneliness.

Is enough being done to support students?

Among the students in the survey, three in five said that they have needed to ask for help with issues they’ve experienced due to the pandemic.

But, of those that have asked for help, 39% said that it was difficult or very difficult. What’s more, only 3% said they found it very easy. It’s evident that, for too many students, the support that they need is not as easily accessible as it should be.

One second-year student in the survey went as far as to say:

“100% more support and guidance is needed for students who are being left in the dust.”

Looking ahead

The stats from this survey are undoubtedly alarming – not least when you consider the further struggles among students that we may still be yet to see.

If young people at university continue to feel unsupported, the issues will only increase. Therefore, moving forwards, it is absolutely essential that universities ensure it is as easy as possible for students to access the support they need.

It has been a very tough year for so many. For education providers, the mental health of students must be prioritised, with efforts made to help students to navigate through this challenging and confusing period.

Jake Butler, Save the Student’s money expert, comments:

“Students are among the groups worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s clear from our stats that many have experienced job losses, lack of access to university facilities, accommodation issues, poor communication and so much more.

“The toll this has taken, and is still taking, on students’ mental health is really distressing to see.

“We could be creeping towards a huge and very damaging mental health crisis among students.

“Without action from the government and universities in a number of key areas such as student accommodation, student funding and tuition fee refunds, we can expect students that have struggled through the first semester to face even more difficulties ahead.”

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