Student Mental Health – Where do we go from here?
Since the coronavirus outbreak, it is no surprise that the UK’s Higher Education sector has seen a monumental increase in psychological issues affecting its student populations (Grubic, Badovinac & Johri, 2020).
In an environment where heightened stress levels were already prevalent – and in the absence of pre-existing coping mechanisms such as socialising with friends and family – it is essential we reflect upon how this has compounded the existing public mental health burden. And, with the long-awaited announcement of a relaxation in lockdown restrictions, we should explore how we can best manage the longer-term impacts of the pandemic.
Some recent stats have shown how approximately 25% of one student sample reported an increase in symptoms of anxiety since the impact of COVID-19 (Cao et al., 2020). Another student survey issued worldwide by YoungMinds reported that 83% of respondents agreed that the pandemic worsened pre-existing mental health conditions. Concerns mainly centred around academic delays, financial worries and disruptions to daily life.
We have, however, made a lot of progress in this space. There are numerous preventative platforms to help improve the mental wellbeing of students. Although identifying and managing environmental triggers is helpful, we should not neglect the significance of other factors that can contribute to or otherwise form the root cause of poor mental health.
A one-size-fits-all approach will not do; what we need is a transient approach to managing this demographic’s unique set of experiences. We must take care not to exacerbate underlying issues or symptoms with social media tools that can inadvertently serve to reinforce negative stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health and the student sub-set of the population.
So, what can we do? The NHS Long Term Plan stipulates that to reach access targets by 2023/2024, an additional 345,000 children and young persons (up to age 25) will access psychological support via the NHS and higher education mental health teams.
How can we achieve this?
One clear route to meet the above target is through the digitisation of mental health services. Services can meet required levels of digitisation via a range of self-managed apps, virtual consultations and digitally-enabled therapy models.
This comes with its own set of unique pressures and challenges. But the case for collaborative healthcare has been long established; Xyla Digital Therapies is a pioneering service that has quickly established itself as a leader in the field. With clinical expertise, evidence-based interventions and an emphasis on student choice, we focus on partnerships with universities to add capacity and value when it is most needed. Contact us to find out more.