Since the coronavirus pandemic hit hard in early March 2020, students have had to face a myriad of unprecedented challenges.
We know that even in normal times, up to one in three students experience clinical levels of psychological distress during their academic studies. This can lead to negative social outcomes, academic difficulties, and potential dropout.
Sadly, 52% of 4,193 respondents to a survey conducted by the National Union for Students in November said that their mental health had worsened since the start of the pandemic. Similarly, a polling of over 2,000 students by the Office for National Statistics in the same month found that students are more anxious than the general population.
Why is this happening?
There are many factors having a negative impact on student mental health during the pandemic. Many students are experiencing financial difficulties, expounded by the cost of rent for accommodation they are currently unable to return to.
Others do not have access to the digital equipment or working space required to complete their studies from home. Some students will be in unsafe living spaces and others are facing isolation, unable to meet their course mates face-to-face and to partake in the rich variety of extracurricular activities that make up the standard university experience.
Sadly, many students will have experienced bereavement over recent months too.
Certain groups of students have been particularly impacted, with a study by the University of Oxford and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showing that BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Additionally, those who will soon be graduating and those who have graduated in the past year face an uncertain and competitive job market. Meanwhile, those who will be starting university in the few years have experienced significant disruption to their schooling and assessments.
How can we help?
One way we can help is by supporting institutions to ensure that both preventative measures are taken, and that appropriate support is available for all those who need it – this is more important now than ever.
To this end, we are working hard this year to find a way for students’ voices to be heard and for them to be empowered to talk about their struggles and moreover, to play a key role in implementing preventive measures within their institutions. We will have news for you on a new project we will be supporting to enable this to happen in early March.
Like many funding organisations, we look towards an uncertain future over the months and years ahead, as usual funding routes continue to be cut off. Your support would help us to overcome the uncertainties of this time and take our vital aid in this area forwards.
If you’d like to donate to the Charlie Watkins Foundation and help fund our upcoming projects, you can visit our JustGiving page.