One of the main reasons why students go to university is for the exciting social life. Undoubtedly, not having this experience due to social distancing regulations will have a negative impact on many people’s mental health. From making new friends to night outs and society events, students will be missing out. Freshers Week is the main opportunity to make friends and without these social events, first year students may find it difficult to connect with others.
Covid-19 has already had a significant impact on mental health issues and loneliness. Data from Xenzone shows the number of children and young people presenting mental health concerns has risen by 97% and loneliness has risen by 55% since 2019. Online learning and the lack of a social life is likely to increase these figures even further, which is a frightening thought.
Fewer opportunities to go out and have fun will make students feel like they have no form of escapism from academia. Reduced hours spent at university will make people feel cooped up in their homes. Although the academic aspect is important, uni life is all about striking the right balance between working hard and having fun. Without events and societies running as they usually would, this will prove very difficult and put additional pressures on focusing only on the academic side of university life which again could hinder people’s mental health with the pressures to study more.
In an ideal world all first-year students would get along with the people they live in halls with. Unfortunately for many, this isn’t the case and spending time out and about makes the experience more enjoyable. Even for those who do get along with the people they live with, it’s important to make friends with people on their course. It’s possible to do this via social media, which will be the reality of socialising this year, but you don’t truly know someone until you spend time with them in person, even if that is from two metres apart. It’s very easy for people to be someone they’re not on social media, which is why face-to-face communication is key. As well as feeling lonely, students will feel detached from their course because they haven’t been able to get to know their course-mates.
It’s a sad reality that the number of students experiencing mental health problems is likely to increase as a result of Covid-19 and the impact it’s had, and will continue to have, on our university experiences. However, the University of Sheffield must be commended for the number of support services they are offering and promoting. The Student Advice Centre will be providing advice via email, phone or Google meet as they cannot offer in person appointments. The counselling service offers drop-in sessions, appointments, workshops and group sessions depending on what students feel comfortable with. You can also attend a Student Access to Mental Health (SAMHS) triage appointment and receive a personalised plan. For those who’d rather remain anonymous, the university promotes Sheffield Nightline.
For those who want to seek advice or help, some resources are listed below:
- Sheffield Nightline: https://www.sheffieldnightline.co.uk
- SAMHS: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/mental-wellbeing/index
- Mental Health Support at the University of Sheffield: https://su.sheffield.ac.uk/advice-and-support/health-wellbeing
- Student Advice Centre: https://yoursu.sheffield.ac.uk/student-advice-centre
- Counselling services: https://yoursu.sheffield.ac.uk/student-advice-centre/personal/counselling