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The University Mental Health Pandemic

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A pandemic within a pandemic. As Covid-19 devastated physical health, an unlikely side effect was the detrimental impact on people’s mental health. Some of the worst affected were students, isolated from their peers, with underwhelming online teaching and little to no support. Often left to the side, they were made to feel as if they were unimportant and there were much more pressing matters than online lectures and no fresher’s week.

As a result, there was a steady increase in mental health cases in students. The stress and isolation that the pandemic and multiple lockdowns put on to them was immense. Student Minds reported that 65% of students said they needed additional help and advice during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of these, just 19% got the help they needed.

Universities were wildly underprepared for supporting students through the new territory, leaving them on their own.

There was hope that now the pandemic was over, universities would be suitably equipped to help students. But there was also a hope that students would struggle less with mental health problems.

Unfortunately, it has become apparent that universities have not put in sufficient measures post-pandemic and students are actually struggling more.

The concerns raised about students struggling with feelings of isolation and stress have since diminished. Just because the pandemic is over, the mental health crisis is not.

The Scottish Government called for a complete overhaul of Scottish Universities’ mental health services. This follows the shocking revelation that almost 2,000 students in Scotland are currently on waiting lists for counselling. The Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed through Freedom of Information requests that as of March 29 this year, 900 students at the University of Edinburgh were awaiting support.

The University of Dundee took second place with 228 in waiting. It was also shown that Glasgow students have experienced waiting periods of 141 days for help and Edinburgh students waiting 105 days.

Stirling was one of four Scottish universities to not report any students on waiting lists alongside Aberdeen, St Andrews, and West Scotland.

It was revealed by a BBC draft report that Cambridge University’s mental health services were branded as ‘ineffective’ and ‘unsustainable’. There have been five deaths at the university since March with one confirmed as suicide and four suspected to be suicide. Prior to the deaths, the University had found there were likely to be significant inefficiencies and said it was embarking on a programme of change. It is unconfirmed whether the students who died had used their mental health services.

Now with rising living costs, students are under more pressure than ever.  NUS Scotland research has indicated that 64% of students’ financial worries are impacting their mental health, while 22% are concerned about running out of food. Ellie Gomersall, President of NUS Scotland, stated: “As the cost-of-living escalates, we’re likely to see more students in crisis and distress unless the Scottish Government prioritises and secures funding for student mental health.”

Universities must do better. Students going into higher education during the pandemic and post-pandemic have had some of the most disruptive years a young person can. There is improvement coming with the Government investing an additional £15 million into university student mental health, on top of the recent £3 million.

The University of Stirling offers services for students to help prevent strain and stress. This can help with anything from mental health problems, stress, grief or anything else. The University recommends that if you are concerned about your mental health and want to enquire about the support you can receive during your studies to contact the Student Services Hub.

There are multiple different way you can access the Hub

Chat: Live Chat via your portal: Monday to Friday, 9am – 4.30pm
(Tuesday 10am – 4.30pm)

Call: 01786 466022, Monday to Friday, 9am to 11am and 2pm to 4pm,
Tuesday 10am-11am and 2pm-4pm.

Meet: Monday to Friday, 10am – 4pm in the Student Services Hub, Campus Central. Go to the booking website to make an appointment.

Email: ask@stir.ac.uk. Use your student email address or include your student ID number on a personal email address.

Also available is ‘One at a Time Counselling’. The idea is that the most significant issue at the time of the session is discussed, and one appointment is offered at a time. There are options for multiple sessions depending on what you need.

If you do not feel comfortable going to the university for help other charities and helplines are available.

Breathing Space – 0800 838587
A free confidential phone service for anyone in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression, or anxiety

Mind – 0300 123 3393
A charity providing advice and support to empower you if you are experiencing a mental health problem

Samaritans – 116 123
Samaritans can offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like about whatever’s getting to you – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Stirling Nightline http://:stirling.nightline.ac.uk/instant-messaging/ A confidential and anonymous listening service for students, run by the Stirling Students’ Union. The instant messaging support service is open from 11pm – 2am, Thursday

Feature Image Credit – Ciara Tait

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Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe

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