The National Union of Students (NUS) is calling for urgent action after recent reports of a number of student deaths by suicide at UK universities.
The union is asking for funding for university mental health services and charities which support BAME, disabled and LGBT+ people to be “immediately” increased.
In a statement, Sara Khan, NUS Vice President for Liberation and Equality, said: “We are heartbroken over the death by suicide of several students already this academic year”.
While the NUS has “warned the government” of the detrimental effects of the pandemic on students’ mental health, Khan said there has not been “enough resources allocated to education providers” and that “students deserve better than this”.
The NUS is also asking for universities to increase support and show more “flexibility” for students who are self-isolating.
The father of a University of Manchester student who passed away in his halls has tweeted: “If you lockdown young people because of Covid-19 with little support, then you should expect that they suffer severe anxiety.”
Khan said: “Universities should be providing care packages with food, household products, wellbeing materials and general necessities, and targeted educational and mental health support, with facilitation of social activity”.
The NUS also asks that students are permitted to see family members “provided it is safe to do so”.
This call to action is part of #StudentsDeserveBetter, an NUS campaign to increase awareness and support for the issues students are facing as a result of the pandemic.
Holly Ellis, Sheffield SU Welfare Officer, said: “Student wellbeing remains our priority throughout the pandemic, and student suicides is an issue that we take very seriously. Student mental health was a major issue prior to Covid-19 and we know that the current circumstances students find themselves in, are exacerbating this for some.
“The Students’ Union is working hard to represent and support students at this time. The Officer Team continue to meet regularly with the University and work to improve services for students: the University’s SAMHS (Student Access to Mental Health Support) has introduced a fast-track appointments service for self-isolating students, and Residence Life offer daily phone calls to all students in University accommodation, including but not exclusive to those that are self-isolating. We also work with various charities, including Student Minds.
“We have also delivered training for our student leaders on supporting students with mental health difficulties as well as providing dedicated online spaces for some of our representative groups to come together, and share experiences or concerns, for example disabled and BAME students. The University Counselling Service has also committed to providing dedicated support sessions for BAME students which will be facilitated by members of the University counselling team with lived experiences.”
For anyone seeking advice or support, some resources are listed below:
University Counselling Service: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/counselling
Student Advice Centre: https://yoursu.sheffield.ac.uk/student-advice-centre
Sheffield Nightline: https://www.sheffieldnightline.co.uk/
Image: George Tuli