What More Can We Do To Support Students With Depression?
By Chloe Winterburn, Legends Report Writer
“The feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary.”
— M. Scott Peck, Discipline, The Road Less Travelled
Mental health is an everyday challenge for a lot of people and it’s something that is not spoken about enough in society. There is too much stigma that surrounds our mental health and so many people feel they can’t talk about it or get any help. There are so many articles detailing the struggles and the declination of mental health. But what are we doing as communities to help people who are struggling?
Approximately 59% of young people with existing mental health conditions said that lockdown made their lives worse compared to the 37% without.
Mental health declined dramatically in lockdown, and many young people couldn’t stay inside their homes. My sister, for example, felt more at ease with her friends or boyfriend. She felt more trapped inside the house and her mental health began to decline again. So this shows the support needed for all these people that had to be inside during lockdown feeling stuck and isolated.
According to the WHO website, there are many different reasons that depression would emerge in adolescence. Teenage years are the hardest part of life for a lot of people. Many feel like they are not being heard, in schools and at home. There are many stresses which include huge expectations, with exams and coursework, and bodily changes which are difficult to understand. Sometimes dealing with home life can be tough, and children and teenagers often cannot do anything or say anything if they are having a terrible time behind closed doors. These anxieties and ill health can extend to adulthood and then worsen in students, preventing them from enjoying adult life in many aspects.
So What’s Happening With Support In Universities?
There are so many people hiding their struggles and we need to be able to show people we are here for them with open arms, not shying away when mental health is brought up.
In university, many students have increased stress around exams and end of term assignments, especially when juggling three or four modules at once. A lot of the time, there aren’t enough resources or they are out of reach for students which causes stress. So why are there no strong support systems for university students?
To make matters worse, the Coronavirus stopped everything in March 2020 in the middle of many students’ final term. For me, this was my final year and I ended up finishing my last projects at home, struggling with motivation to complete them. Covid affected everything, closed the library, the main buildings and slowed access to even online systems while everything was being moved over. Some universities took so long to create a navigable lecture structure for online learning that many students were unable to access or understand what they were doing.
Months of isolation and confusion led to increased stress levels once again for students, and this time without any support face to face. Some had no support at all online from university or at home.
For example, in my university, our Student Union President was faced with burning questions and anxieties from students because the university wouldn’t communicate with anyone. In short, they didn’t know what they were doing. They waited to see how the pandemic was going and told students at the last minute whether they were having in-person teaching or not. They didn’t have any Student Support so they were left asking her to help them communicate with the Vice-Chancellor.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, a lot of medical students ended up on the front line to help out the desperate NHS staff. Depression is high in hospital staff without a pandemic, and this had risen significantly since last year especially in the winter months. My parents both suffer with it as nurses on different wards and in different hospitals. As an ITU nurse, my Mum has seen a lot of people suffer and die as a cause of Covid and other awful reasons. She’s been a nurse for about twenty years. So to think all these students have been thrown straight into it because the NHS needed staff so desperately is worrying. Their mental health must have declined so badly and there just isn’t enough funding for the right support for everyone.
What Support Is There Outside University?
We need to focus on the individual and their friends and family around them to change what is happening with mental health. As well as professional support, friends and family could do a lot more to help the individual in question. They need to feel surrounded and loved by those around them so they don’t feel alone. For many people, taking up a hobby or activity has helped to distract from their day to day life, redirecting stress in certain situations.
Unfortunately, there aren’t just contributions within university. There are so many things between terms that happen to students that increase anxiety. Cases have been rising over the summer and as soon as students are able to go back to university, this will cause some stress. Especially as a small group of people go to many parties and mingle with many different groups and Covid cases spread. Travelling back and forth between home and university via public transport is also worrying for many students from those who don’t wear masks or don’t wear them properly. It’s a huge fear of catching it that spreads quickly through people especially those with underlying health conditions and giving it to vulnerable friends and family.
At home, struggles with motivation, finding resources and difficulties getting answers from lecturers are just a few more reasons why students need extra support now more than ever. For this, getting out and about can give even the smallest of inspirations. If the university had more online resources and an easily navigable system, that would help students find research for their essays.
Post-graduate life isn’t always as it seems. It’s not outlined or talked about, no one really knows how to progress after university. Finding a job and getting out there is really difficult, especially as Covid shut down basically everything. Many jobs were inaccessible and trying to get experience or internships was virtually impossible. This was out of the university’s hands, but there still wasn’t enough support especially for the more specialised courses. A lot of universities have careers’ advice but online classes that students can’t always attend (because of work, care responsibilities etc) and then that seems to be it. Between Covid and Brexit, stress levels have risen dramatically as people worry for the future and job accessibility, holidays etc. There have been way too many cancellations of events in the past year and it’s cast a shadow over a lot of students, including myself.
What Can We Do?
Unfortunately, reminding people that they can talk about their mental health isn’t enough. It’s very difficult to help others understand what is going on inside their minds and why they think the way they do. We need more than just coaxing. They need to be able to believe that there will be more action taken if they did tell people how they were feeling.
So, while we can’t change university views or encourage them to make things easier for students, we still need to do something. We need to focus on us as a community, friends, family and fellow students to make changes for the individual. It is crucial that we find the right support for the individual and that they know the support is there. We need to have better counselling, support groups and other helpful opportunities to gather around the individual so they have a healthy outlet. Mind is a very important charity that raises money and awareness for mental health. A lot of companies are now advocating for customers to help raise money. Mind have all sorts of useful information and support on their website: Student mental health during coronavirus.
Also, on their website, they list some different mental health issues and what we can do to help them: Helping someone else.
In the form below, you can contact us or connect on live chat for any support or help you may need. Mental health shouldn’t have to be a difficult subject to talk about, we need more support for those who need it.
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