@TheStudentRoom finds student conversations around anxiety and mental health at an all-time high, impacted greatly by the disruption and uncertainty surrounding their education
A poll set up by The Student Room, the largest online student community, to help identify key factors impacting on student wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic, attracted over 4300 votes and found uncertainty around education was the greatest cause of concern.
The poll was created after TSR saw a 77% spike in conversations around anxiety and depression across their forums, which attract up to 10 million visitors each month. The largest peaks took place between March 18th-21st, following an announcement of school closures and exam cancellations, and again beginning on 29 March and continuing into early April when the exam regulator Ofqual announced how they will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled this summer.
One TSR community member commented:
“Ever since my exams got cancelled, I feel like I have no purpose and everything I’ve been working for is over. I didn’t try hard enough last year, and now it means that I’m not going to get the grades I want and then I also have to live in a small house with my loud family and I just cant take them anymore. I feel depressed and anxious about getting out this situation but i dont know what to do as I cant or I’ll spread the virus. I feel very trapped.”
In the poll, The Student Room asked their community to select from a list of a possible 11 contributory factors impacting their mental wellbeing.
Mhairi Underwood, Head of Community at TSR, commented on the results saying:
“It’s unsurprising that uncertainty around education is the biggest factor affecting students’ mental health right now. But we’re also seeing significant concerns around the sudden lack of purpose and routine in their lives, with students facing an indefinite period of time without the thing that has been their main focus for most of their lives – their education and school routine. Loneliness and uncertainty around future career prospects also feature highly, as students manage the impact of being cut off from their real-life communities, and the vastly changed landscape of their career possibilities.”
A marked increase in conversations around suicide poses concerns The Student Room has a dedicated mental health forum, which has seen over 2,000 comments posted between 11 March – 11 April. “We’re seeing trends around Year 12s who are facing long periods of time with no studies to focus on; Year 13s worrying about uni applications; and final year uni students trying to complete work at home, graduations cancelled and career prospects changed.” Mhairi Underwood said.
“Support for our most vulnerable users, those who post about suicide, has seen a marked increase since the announcement of school closures and exam cancellations. The week immediately following the announcement on 18 March saw a 93% increase (compared to the same week last year) in the number of suicide-related posts requiring support from our Peer Support Volunteer team (14 threads last year compared to 27 threads this year). This was also an 87% increase on the previous week (11-18th March).”
TSR has been working closely with Papyrus Prevention of Youth Suicide to understand the key factors affecting young people’s mental health as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Kelly Thorpe, Head of Helpline Services at Papyrus, commented:
“Some of the most frequent themes we hear about on HOPELINEUK are from students who are confused about their feelings towards school or college closing, their exams they have worked hard for being cancelled, or being around family who they don’t necessarily get along with. Working in partnership with TSR on their forum, we have seen these themes continue. Using this amazing platform, we have been able to respond to those students who have bravely shared these feelings.”
Universities Minister Q&A
Initiatives taken by TSR to help alleviate student anxieties include a Q&A with the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, which attracted over 20,000 views and provided information and support on a number of key issues including uncertainty for those students who were tied into rental contracts, assessment measures for private candidates who would have been taking their GCSE’s & A-Levels, lack of information around grades and application deadlines for Year 12’s and how the timing of re-takes may affect University places.
The Student Room has community staff, volunteers and forum helpers on board to support students going online to seek support. The site supports up to 10 million students each month and will continue to provide guidance and advice during this uncertain and unsettling period.