The other pandemic - Mental health and student life
NB: While this article is not typical of Our Opinion’s editorial line, we believe it addresses a critical topic during these times and thus have made the decision to publish it.
We are currently seeing a mental health pandemic alongside the Coronavirus pandemic that we are all aware of.
A model created by the Centre for Mental Health and the NHS predicts that…
In England up to 10 million people (almost 20% of the population) will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the crisis. 1.5 million of those will be children and young people under 18.
Without a doubt students have suffered tremendously, whilst still being expected to sit exams and complete high quality work without much or any support. Many young people are struggling with loneliness. For example, those living alone away from home and unable to go back and all who cannot see their friends and loved ones. There has been stress brought by the uncertainty of the situation and anxiety surrounding the virus itself. All of this has unfortunately led to increased self-harm and suicide rates.
Where are some of the problems?
Unfortunately our society continues to hold a stigma surrounding mental health, many refuse to even acknowledge the existence of mental health issues. The feeling that your friends and family may not understand, may judge you or not believe you, is one of isolation. Due to this, people are afraid to ask for help from loved ones or access the mental health support services, consequently costing lives. This stigma has been a result of the lack of medical understanding about mental health in the past centuries, overtime misinformation and misunderstanding led to those dealing with mental health issues to be outcasted from society. Despite the significant advancements in the medical understanding of various mental health conditions and increased awareness, there are further milestones that need to be crossed to ensure equality, respect and support.
There are a range of services available for those suffering with mental health issues, particularly during this pandemic, which I will be listing below later. However, frequently long waiting times and low accessibility mean that they are far less effective than intended to be.
“The average wait between referral and a second appointment (when treatment usually commences) is over two months” - BBC News
These delays in appointments are putting more and more young people at even more risk than they could already potentially be at. The pandemic has only extended these waiting times not just for the NHS but also many of the counselling services at universities around the country. Young people are being expected to study as normal, to continue paying tuition fees for online lectures, paying rent for empty rooms and deciding whether to stay at home or alone, for some staying at home would be similar to a punishment.
Where can you find help?
If you are reading this and a student who may be dealing with mental health issues, below are some of the services you can access during this difficult time.
As I previously mentioned the waiting times can be long, however seeing your GP to discuss how you are feeling can be the first step in figuring out what path is the best for you. Occasionally they may refer you on further to more specialist services, they may also be able to direct you to local counselling services (e.g. YES counselling) opr external charities that can help you.
Every university and school has their own counselling and wellbeing service which is accessible to each and every student. It can feel daunting to approach your educational provider for help out of the fear of judgement or having to talk to a familiar face. However, they are able to provide you with support tailored to your studies and can give you additional support you may require during your time studying there (e.g. Individual Exam Adjustments)
In the UK we are extremely fortunate to have various charities set up in the aim of supporting young people’s mental health.
These are only a few, to access a full list of all charities that can help you with your mental health go to this link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
Support groups (social media, organisations)
Social media has made it easier for young people around the world to come together to discuss the mental health issues they may be facing, in a place where they feel comfortable. These forums are support groups are available on facebook, instagram and some have their own websites (e.g. Kooth)
Elefriends (phone app)
Apps and useful resources
These are some resources that have personally helped me and others to combat our mental health issues. These range from meditation, breathing exercises, mental health awareness and journally.
All applications for mental health:
What can you do?
If you are currently dealing with any mental health issues then you are not alone. Please access any and all support available, whether that is through family and friends or through online resources or charities. Although, mental health is a topic we have only just started to talk about, there are so many others feeling similar to you who are there for you.
If you know someone who may be in that position or even if you don’t, it is essential that we spread awareness about the current mental health crisis going on in our society right now. We need to make the existing resources available and more accessible to others, especially our youth, so that we do not have to call ambulances to universities anymore, so that no more lives are lost.
This article was originally published by Tanya Marwaha on her website https://chronciallystrong.wordpress.com/