Students have had their schedules turned upside down in the past few weeks with uni classes and exams cancelled across the UK, but looking after mental and emotional health is super important during times of uncertainty. Here’s how to cope when events trigger feelings of anxiety and isolation.
Across the world, 102 countries have shut all schools, impacting around 900 million children and young adults. A UK and Ireland wide lockdown has seen most universities switch to online classes and postpone all events in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Exams have been cancelled, with teachers planning on delaying tests or using mock exam performance and online assessments to grade students. While daily workload and exam pressure has been lifted, students everywhere are facing a whole new type of stress.
Confusion about courses and health-related anxiety is high. With strict travel restrictions in place, the UK’s 450,000 international students face restrictions on going home, with many unable to secure flights at all. With self-isolation thrown into the mix across the board, over 2 million higher education students in the UK are facing months of uncertainty.
University Students and Mental Health
Global events aside, student mental health and anxiety is already a significant issue across the country. The most extensive study ever done on the topic found that 1 in 5 students suffers from a mental health issue, with depression and anxiety topping the list. Around 1 in 3 uni students has experienced an issue for which they felt the need for professional help. Student mental health statistics also indicate that:
- 33% of students often or always feel lonely
- 8% of students often or always feel anxious or worried
The study also found that feelings of loneliness and worry almost always exclusively appear together, which means students who are homesick or isolated are vulnerable when it comes to struggles with mental health right now.
Main Sources of Stress
Isolation and health-related anxiety are triggering stress in young adults right now. Some of the main factors that impact student mental health include:
- Health-related anxiety
Up until March 17, around 46% of 18-24 year-olds were going outside as usual during the coronavirus outbreak, but with the latest lockdown measures put into place across the UK, more people have started to take self-isolation seriously.
The escalation has caused many students to become anxious about the state of their physical health, and the health of their families, with the press reporting that international students are especially concerned about returning home and potentially putting their loved ones at risk.
- Isolation and loneliness
Making new friends can be a struggle, and student mental health can be impacted as new students can often feel isolated and left out when starting their university years. Joining in on local student societies, sports and cultural activities can help students to connect with others and feel less isolated.
Now, however, social distancing is making it harder than before for students to make these connections, and events like London Pride, Glastonbury, Record Store Day, and more being cancelled or postponed. Read more here about coping with loneliness at university.
- Academic pressure and uncertainty about the future
Seven in ten 18-24-year-olds feel anxious about employment and their ability to earn money in the near future due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
With the job market becoming ever more competitive, students are under increased pressure to maintain good grades and excel in their chosen field of study. Today’s students spend more time studying compared to previous generations, face more competition in their career, and also find it more challenging to achieve job satisfaction.
Stress-Busting Things You Can Do Right Now
Here are some things you can do today, to help manage stress and boost your mental and emotional wellbeing:
- Socialise: Arrange a video chat with your campus friends and enjoy a “virtual hangout”. Apps like Skype, Zoom or House Party are ideal options to ensure you maintain visual contact with people.
- Exercise: Get the blood pumping and endorphins flowing where you can! As per government guidelines, we can do one type of outdoor activity per day for physical and mental health. That means you can go for a jog, a bike ride or a dog walk, as long as you maintain social distancing and stay more than 2 metres away from those not in your household. Find out more about social distancing on the Gov.uk website.
- Listen to music: Coachella, Glastonbury and Eurovision may be postponed or cancelled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dance. Put on some of your favourite tunes to give your mood an instant lift. According to a new report, the world is going to see a 60% jump in the amount of media consumed at home during our time indoors.
- Call home: Around 35% of Brits think the coronavirus will end up bringing the world closer together. There’s no better time than now to chat with family, so set up a chat with your loved ones back home to catch up and help you feel more connected.
- Read: Put down the textbooks, step away from the screens and read a book or magazine you enjoy.
- Volunteer: Doing good feels good! Look out for opportunities to help elderly and vulnerable people in your area during this time. So far, over 2,600 community support groups have been created in the UK to help connect volunteers with those who are isolated and vulnerable.
- Me-time: Make sure you take some time every day to allow yourself to recharge. Whether it’s taking a hot shower or cooking a healthy meal, make time to look after yourself daily. This is also a great time to upskill through online seminars and classes. Online yoga classes, gaming or adult colouring, can also help pass the time.
- Talk it out! Reach out to your uni to find out what support is in place during this time.
Of course, these tips can be helpful, but sometimes they are not enough. For those struggling with mental health issues, it’s essential to talk to someone about it and get professional help if needed.
As the events of the coming months unfold, remember to be kind to yourself and each other, reach out and make (safe) connections whenever possible, and make your wellbeing a priority.
Looking for Support?
If you’re struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety or isolation at uni, speak to your campus counsellor or reach out to a student support group. If you’d prefer to keep things anonymous, here are some useful resources for you.
Student Minds – Corona-related support for students.
- Website: https://www.studentminds.org.uk/
Anxiety UK – Support for those diagnosed with anxiety
- Helpline: 03444 775 774
- Text service: 07537 416 905
- Website: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
Mental Health Foundation – Support and info on mental health problems
- Website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
No Panic – Support for those affected by panic attacks and OCD
- General helpline: 0844 967 4848
- Youth Helpline: 0330 606 1174
- Website: nopanic.org.uk
Papyrus – Young suicide prevention society
- Helpline: 0800 068 4141
- Website: papyrus-uk.org
Samaritans – Support for those experiencing feelings of despair or depression
- Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
- Website: https://www.samaritans.org/
YoungMinds – Information on child and adolescent mental health
- Phone: Parent’s helpline – 0808 802 5544
- Young adults: Text YM to 85258
- Website: youngminds.org.uk
Student Accommodation Advice
For those with accommodation through Fresh, please reach out to our Resident Teams, who have an open-door policy for students who need to talk. You can also discover answers to your coronavirus-related accommodation questions.