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The coronavirus pandemic has had long-lasting effects on the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Many have faced loss, trauma, and isolation which may have cast a long shadow over their lives.

The various measures introduced to slow the spread have significantly affected the day-to-day lifestyle and mental well-being of the general public.

A category that has been certainly impacted by the pandemic, among others, are higher education students, who found themselves in unique situations, perhaps isolating in student accommodations away from their homes.

The situation was also exacerbate by the lack of contacts with family, friends, or course mates. Many were forced to attend lectures and seminars online, with no face-to-face contact.

Although lockdowns are over and restrictions have been lifted, many are still facing the consequences of these unprecedented events.

Many feel more anxious to socialize with their peers after years of isolation.

Others feel their university experience has been ‘robbed’ from them.

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that more than a third (36%) of students reported that their mental health and well-being had worsened since the start of the Autumn 2021 term.

A statistically significant increase from late November 2021 (28%).

To mark University Mental Health Day on March 3, reporter Irene Bisoni spoke to two university students to shed a light on the mental health struggles students still face.

Jyothsna Nelloolichalil is an international student from India. She moved away from her home country to study news journalism at Nottingham Trent University.

Jyothsna thinks more should be done to help students mental health. Credits: Jyothsna Nelloolichalil

Jyothsna is one of the many university students who has experienced mental health issues during their year at university.

The journalism student had to face two challenges: being away from her country and family on one hand. And trying to adapt to a new culture and society after a major pandemic, on the other.

She said: “Moving to the UK has been quite hard for me as I left my family and my boyfriend in India.

“The cultural shock that I experienced and the difficulties I have encountered in the UK have had an effect on my wellbeing.

“During lockdown, I was in India, for me it was actually better back then.

“It was at university when I started suffering more from symptoms of anxiety, rather than anxiety per se.

“The pandemic might be over, but students are still living the effects of it.

“For me socialising has been extremely difficult and I do feel lonely at times.”

The 24-year-old said she submitted a form to NTU in order to ask for help. However, the process can take longer than a month, so she restored to contact her GP in Nottingham.

She said: “My GP actually prescribed me two medications straight away as it was faster and easier than putting me on a waiting list to see a therapist.

“I certainly think more should be done to support students struggling with their wellbeing.

“Especially international students that may face more challenges adapting to a new culture.”

Jyothsna is not the only one thinking more support should be given to students struggling with mental health issues.

Bipasha N, 19, has also been suffering from mental health issues due to months and months of isolation.

The law student from Nottingham said: “I did test online methods for therapy as I was struggling during my first year at NTU.

“The NHS tells you first to try self-help, so I checked the various apps their offer.

“However, I didn’t find them useful.

“Unfortunately, too many people suffer from mental health issues and the waiting times are often way too long if you are seriously struggling.

“This can certainly put off a lot of people asking for help.”

Talking about her struggles after the pandemic, she said: “I often look back at the two years of my life where I could do so much.

“I feel I have missed out on a lot of things.

“I hate thinking about it.”

 

Data source: ONS

Responding to the ONS survey, 25 percent of students have also said their wellbeing and mental health had gotten slightly worse since the start of the first term, while 11 percent said it had gotten much worse.

The survey also suggested that those who received more in-person teaching were generally more satisfied with their lives.

Of the students who had more than zero hours of in-person teaching, 63 percent reported high or very high life satisfaction.

Data source: ONS

The University Mental Health Day organisers are calling on the university sector to make mental health for staff and especially students a top priority, all year round.

Rosie Tressler, CEO of the Student Minds charity. Credits: Rosie Tressler OBE

Rosie Tressler OBE, is the CEO of the leading UK student mental health charity, Student Minds, which works to empower students and staff to take care of their mental health, while at the same time helping others.

Rosie thinks students too often feel discouraged to open up or seek help.

She said: “It’s concerning that so many students are struggling to manage the challenges of university life yet, for whatever reason, they feel unable to reach out to their university for support.

“This needs to change.”

 

Paul Dodsley, Student Health Development Officer at Nottingham Trent University said: “We realise the pandemic will have a lasting effect on us all.

“It’s important that students are equipped with all the tools to be able to look after and manage their mental health and wellbeing.

“I like to call this mental fitness. It’s the things we do on a day-to-day basis that makes all the difference and the small things like talking about how you are feeling can make all the difference.

“We provide lots of advice, resources, activities, and support for NTU students and we ensure they are fully informed of the choices they can make to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

“No student should suffer in silence.”

Both students hoped talking about mental health struggles could help people in the same situation.

Bipasha said: “Students should be able to feel comfortable speaking up about their challenges without fear of being judged.”

Jyothsna added: “Getting together with people facing the same problems has helped me massively.

“Events, like group walks, are a great way of socialising and building relationships through common struggles.”

Examples of what NTU offers can be found on Healthy NTU pages.

If you or somebody you know is struggling with mental health issues, you can call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: jo@samaritans.org for a reply within 24 hours.