Supporting Students’ Mental Health During Covid-19 Digitally

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in more ways than one; aside from the threat it has posed on our physical health, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on mental health too, with uncertainties about the future causing much distress.

Students across the world have had to rapidly adjust to a new hybrid learning model which involves most teaching being moved online, with very little or no physical contact hours. The overhaul of the traditional education system has caused major disruption to students’ lives as they try to navigate an unfamiliar model which isolates them from the communal classroom environment that they are accustomed to. This, combined with the already existing pressure of keeping up with heavy workloads, has seen a rise in the number of students reaching out to mental health services.

Mhairi Underwood, Head of Community at The Student Room, commented that “since COVID-19 entered students’ lives, we’ve seen them reaching out for support like never before.”

A recent investigation by YoungMinds into the impact of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health found that 67% of respondents, comprised of parents and carers, agreed that they were concerned about the long-term impact of coronavirus on their child’s mental health.

When asked what their top concerns were for young people, the most common answers included:

  • Impact on their education
  • Impact on their future work prospects and finances
  • Impact of social isolation and not seeing their friends

How Can Digital Tools help?

Foster a greater feeling of connectedness:

With legal restrictions on group size preventing students from widening their network beyond their accommodation and subject groups, students are currently feeling an amplified feeling of loneliness and isolation.

In our recent blog which discussed how universities can virtually build a sense of community spirit for students, we examined low satisfaction rates being attributed to the fact that separation has a tendency to reduce the sense of community, giving rise to feelings of disconnection, isolation, distraction, and lack of personal attention, which could affect student persistence in distance education courses or programmes.

While it is difficult to replicate the same feeling of togetherness within a close physical space, encouraging communication with peers is key to minimising the feeling of isolation as students navigate a new virtual learning space together.

Video platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have played an instrumental role in allowing teaching to continue and has allowed students to connect with their friends and family in real-time.

Extending the use of communication tools further, universities should consider how institutionally personalised messaging platforms can enhance their relationship with students and show that they care for their mental wellbeing.

Forums are a great way to gather a whole student community in one place to meet, interact and collaborate with each other, offering many dimensions of a social experience. The more conversations that take place, the more trust universities can breed with students. Being part of a thriving online community means that students can share their struggles and advice with like-minded people, and also gives university professionals a deeper, more authentic insight into the concerns of their student population in order to provide effective mental health provisions.

Provide greater assurance on future career and life prospects:

According to a recent study by the London School of Economics, young people have seen their job prospects and earnings hit hardest of all age groups as a result of Covid-19. More than twice as many young people have lost their jobs as older people, and over half of have seen their earnings fall.

More than one in three young people say they have lost hope of getting their dream job because of coronavirus, the Prince’s Trust has said.

The charity said a survey of 2,000 people aged 16 to 25 across the UK showed 44% had lower aspirations for the future as a result of the pandemic. Its UK chief executive, Jonathan Townsend, stated the pandemic had eroded young people’s confidence.

Furthermore, research conducted by the Samaritans and the University of Glasgow found young adults (18-29 years) were more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts than older people.

From day one of a student’s university journey, university careers teams are available for support and guidance through a range of services including CV tips, interview preparation and application help. However, with Covid-19 throwing certainties about the future in disarray, careers teams need to up their game in order to guarantee the best possible outcomes for their students.

Moving their entire programmes of activity online, careers services can offer their students access to guidance, support and opportunities to help them develop their employability through virtual one-to-ones to increased use of vlogs, podcasts, online chats, and live streams.

Many university careers services have already provided innovative packages of employability support, from bespoke workshops designed to help students and graduates cope with uncertainty and develop their career during the crisis, to digital courses to help them build the skills needed for the online economy.

The continuation of provisions of digital employability support is vital to guaranteeing students that universities want to see them succeed and easing the distress caused by the pandemic. The career anxiety caused by the economic impact of Covid-19 is not one to be taken lightly and as the next generation of graduates enter a tumultuous job market, careers services must be prepared to stand by their side.

As the next generation of leaders, we want to see graduates land their dream jobs and thrive in their life aspirations. However bleak the future may seem right now, it is important to remember that those who succeed are those that adapt. As changes continue to take place every day, it is universities’ responsibility to ensure they are doing everything they can to support the mental wellbeing of their students using the right digital tools to allow for this as we make a universal shift to an online landscape.

Proodle appreciates that in order to stay on top of the game, we must move forward with the dynamism of technology and customise digital content that the current generation of students can easily engage with.

What Proodle Solutions offers is an innovative and secure personalised mobile platform for the potential student, which introduces institutions and programmes in a whole new way to make an everlasting impression. We help students understand what a university is about, their requirements, the application process and notify them on the latest social events.

If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159

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Kiran Athwal November 5, 2020 0 Comments