As UK students begin their examinations in earnest this week, it is being reported that the state of mental health and wellbeing amongst students may be a lot worse than first thought.
In response to rising concerns about the mental health of young people and students, leading education platform, Quizlet, in their first-ever international study focussing specifically on the state of mental health amongst GenZ students, gathered data and insights revealing that one of the top causes of stress is end of year exams, with 47% of respondents identifying examinations as a critical source of stress that impacts their mental health. While this finding may not come as a surprise (we all know how stressful exams can be), the study went further, asking students if they felt they had received adequate support during the pandemic and ongoing periods of isolation, as well as asking if their overall wellbeing had worsened as a result.
When asked, Nayi Muyeri, a third-year medical student at the University of Central Lancashire, said, “The pandemic had many long-term effects on my experience as a student, the most troubling being the mild post-traumatic stress disorder I was left with.” Across the UK, many students were forced to endure extended periods of complete isolation, resulting in feelings of loneliness and even depression. For Muyeri, the pandemic and isolation left her not wanting to mix with fellow students when restrictions eased. “Student life is characterised by being outgoing, exploring, meeting new people and learning new things, but the pandemic took this away from us.”
One of the key concerns that surrounded students of all ages during the pandemic is the possibility of lost learning. While in-depth reports and studies from bodies such as Ofqual have attempted to quantify this, it is clear that the impact has been far greater than first expected.
Muyeri explained that “the pandemic also had an adverse effect on my academic capability. I struggled to motivate myself to work to the best of my ability.”
So what are universities, colleges, and schools actually doing to support student mental health? Quizlet’s survey identified that, since the pandemic began, the majority of Gen Z students have faced challenges including feeling anxious (61%), overwhelmed (55%), and struggling to concentrate while studying (51%). Since March 2020, almost half of GenZ respondents revealed that they have dealt with feelings of loneliness and depression. Most worryingly of all, less than a quarter of students confirmed that their schools offer any sort of mental health or emotional support that they have utilised.
While figures differed slightly across respondents in higher education, the study revealed that GenZers in the US are actually more likely to seek professional support for their mental health than those in the UK (30% in the US vs. 19% in the UK).
When it comes to tackling mental health issues, there continues to be a perceived stigma surrounding professional mental health support. The survey identified that the difficulty in finding a professional that one feels comfortable with (39%) and the cost of receiving help (39%) are the top two barriers to receiving professional mental health support, followed by having to share personal details with a stranger (35%) and the fear of admitting one needs help (33%).
Quizlet is currently used by over 60 million people globally and has expanded to become one of the world’s leading edtech companies, working with students, teachers, and learners globally. With dynamic, AI-led tools, Quizlet engages users and keeps them closely connected to the learning experience. As part of their mission to better understand the mental health crisis we are currently confronted with, and to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health, Quizlet has teamed up with The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps to empower teens and young adults by promoting social connectedness and encouraging help-seeking and help-giving behaviours. Through this partnershipQuizlet encourage users of all ages to utilise this safe and secure outlet when it comes to seeking support with mental health and wellbeing.
When we asked spoke to Quizlet about the recent survey findings, Stephanie Douglass, Chief People Officer at Quizlet, commented, “Mental health is a defining issue of our time and has had a profound impact on learning and education. As an advocate and resource for learners navigating an increasingly uncertain world, Quizlet has a responsibility to help ensure modern learners have equitable access to helpful resources and to continue to bring conversations about mental health to the forefront.”