Student mental health in Sheffield declines as Coronavirus cases rise.

Sheffield Hallam Student Support services such as Hallam Help, wellbeing and personal guidance advisors have been in high demand. And with an increase in cases and people having to self- isolate, and uncertainty regarding new restrictions and measures in the place to contain coronavirus, it’s no wonder.   

The week commencing 5th October saw over 100 confirmed Coronavirus cases amongst staff and students, according to Sheffield Hallam University statistics.  According to Rethink Mental Illness, a survey found that almost 80% of people said that their mental health had gotten worse or much worse as a result of the pandemic and the measures to contain it. Similarly, a survey conducted by the mental health charity Young Minds in July also recorded that 80% of their respondents noted their mental health had declined during the pandemic.

We conducted a smaller survey of Sheffield-based students and found that 90% of students’ mental health had gotten worse because of the pandemic and 80% of students felt that they had been treated unfairly during this time.

Responses from this survey indicated that students felt neglected and unsafe. One student told us, ‘For me safety is the most important thing and whilst I understand the argument that it isn’t worth the money for being taught online I would not prefer an alternative where we were forced back into face to face teaching when it is still unsafe.’ Another student added, ‘I didn’t know I had any mental health issues until this pandemic.’                  Bernadette Banda, a first year Law student stated: ‘I feel like first year students’ transition into university has been stressful with minimum guidance into the course.  It’s been a draining and a toll. Each day just passes by and no one is really sure what is going on. My friends are struggling, and I personally feel like the government has not given us enough guidance as first-year university students.’

World mental health day, which took place last week, aimed to raise awareness about mental health and was clearly more pertinent than ever. In particular, the focus was on ‘how people with lived experience are overcoming the challenges of lockdown and how, together, we are pushing for a better world, post-pandemic’, according to the charity Rethink Mental Illness. This year’s theme which was set by the World’s Federation for Mental Health was ‘Mental Health for all’.

As Sheffield has been positioned in Tier 2 of the ‘3 Tier System’ as of 12th October, students have been worried of the increased risk the virus presents to their studies and ability to perform well academically. This will no doubt add to the increasing stress and anxiety faced by students not only around their academic success, but also their physical health.

The true scale of the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s mental health won’t become clear for some time yet, however, what is apparent is that students and young people will undoubtedly be some of the most affected.

Christine Emelone

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