With tight restrictions on everyday life during the Covid-19 outbreak and with many students needing to self-isolate, the mental health and wellbeing of students will face great pressure over the coming weeks and months.
The nature of self-isolation will mean many face loneliness, anxiety and depression. This presents a huge challenge for student support services with greater barriers to reaching out to students. Here we suggest some approaches that can support students to maintain their mental wellbeing.
Its key that universities are able to identify those at risk and ensure they receive targeted support. Student support services will already have core students they support. However, the current crisis may present new mental health challenges to certain groups, particularly those with no family connections or those living alone. Effective outreach and communication with at risk students will be vital during the Covid-19 crisis.
For student support teams there is also a challenge in ensuring that academic departments recognise the increased pressures students are facing. Academic departments should work even closer with support services to ensure that course delivery and expectations match the mental wellbeing context of the student. Support teams will rely even further on academic leaders to flag when students stop engaging with online learning or are failing to progress.
Maintaining Social Inclusion
For many students university is the most social time in their life where they see their friends every day and rely on social support networks that may only exist through their university experience. For all institutions its key that, if even just virtually, they maintain that sense of belonging and support students to feel part of the community. High impact communication with students and supporting social networks will be vital in preventing students from feeling isolated.
Continue the Conversation
Many support staff will themselves face challenges in reaching out to students as they work from home and are absent from the usual services provided on campus. As such, ensuring students are aware of the services available to them and how they can access them virtually will be essential to effectively supporting students. All students must know that counselling services, therapy and long-held relationships with support teams are still available and in action.