University Mental Health Day: Covid takes its toll on students

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Charlotte Ashley-Higgins is a third year student at the University of Wolverhampton - but because of the national lockdown she has spent much of her student life in a camper van on her parents' drive in Birmingham.

Charlotte previously told ITV Central she had been paying almost £400 a month for accommodation that she couldn't use. She'd been using her maintenance loan and wages from a part time job to pay - but said it was unfair.

Charlotte was offered a rent discount, but didn't feel it was enough, as she didn't know how long the situation was going to last.

Meanwhile, Aiden McNamee, a student in Nottingham, told us that his stress and anxiety levels were increased by accusations that students were spreading Coronavirus.

He said, "We went back to work, we went back to university, we ate out to help out and it's all been for nothing."

University students have been been widely criticised for spreading coronavirus by not obeying social distancing rules, but he told us the vast majority were behaving.

He said that many students had caught the virus, not because they were breaking the rules and being "party animals", but instead because of typical student living conditions.

His university said they'd been supporting students with their education, mental health and wellbeing, with additional financial, social and mental health support where needed.

Today (4th March) marks University Mental Health Day, which aims to raise awareness of the loneliness and anxiety felt by many students during the pandemic.

Students are being asked to interact using #UniMentalHealthDay on social media, to try and bring them together.

Larissa Kennedy is the President of the National Union of Students:

At Staffordshire University, activities including a virtual student dance club are proving to be a popular way of bringing people together. It's a chance for students to interact with each other during an isolating academic year.

Charmaine Watkins runs the club:

At De Montfort University in Leicester, students have set up online chatrooms to try to bring people together.

  • Joe Bonney uses them

The government says it has supplied institutions with funding to support student hardship. Universities say they're supporting students as best they can and many in halls of residence have had their rents paused. Many private landlords have done what they can, but they say they're struggling too.

In the government's roadmap out of lockdown it says,

"Students on practical Higher Education courses at English universities who would be unable to complete their courses if they did not return to take part in practical teaching, access specialist facilities, or complete assessments will... return from 8 March. Research labs and libraries can be kept open if needed.

For those Higher Education students that do not need to take part in practical teaching, and do not require access to specialist facilities or equipment as part of their studies, the Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of these students. This will take account of the latest data and will then be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and institutions will be given a week’s notice ahead of any reopening.

The Government recognises the difficulties and disruption that this may cause for many students and their families where they remain unable to return to Higher Education settings, but it is necessary to limit the number of students who return to university at this stage to minimise travel and manage the risk of transmission. The Government has made available an additional £70 million of hardship funding this financial year, which universities can use to support students impacted by COVID-19."

Student Minds helps students with their mental health:

Click here for links to organisations offering advice and support.

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