Bristol university students set up support group to help one another through coronavirus lockdown

One university block in the city, Courtrooms, is nearing the end of its self-isolation period. Credit: ITV Westcountry

A group of Bristol university students have set up a support network to help fellow students struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

One undergraduate, who contracted the virus, told ITV West Country she was not contacted once by the university's mental health team while in self-isolation.

Eve Whittle said she fortunately found support in talking to others in a similar situation, but believes the university should be doing more to support them as the pandemic continues.

She also believes there will be a rise in the number of students being diagnosed with mental health conditions as a result of the crisis.

She said: "It takes one person to tell you how they're feeling and then you all realise that you feel exactly the same, so it has been hard. There are good times, but it has been really challenging."

Eve Whittle contracted coronavirus and had to self-isolate with her flatmates.

I think that there will probably be a rise in these tragic events because it is so hard, and I feel like that's all I'm saying, but it's the only way I can put forward how hard and how isolating it is for students mentally.

Eve Whittle

Eve had to self-isolate with everyone in her university flat and said she "never felt so ill".

She also said she did not tell her parents about contracting coronavirus because there was so little they would have been able to do for her.

I think we need regular check-ins from the university and their mental health teams. I haven't heard from them once since arriving. I think I had an email in the first week with a phone number and that has been it.

Eve Whittle
The University of Bristol apologised to Eve for the lack of support and said they've been working hard to help students.

In response to some students' concerns about support, 'Project Talk' has been set up at the university to encourage people to connect virtually, and share how they feel with one another.

George Cole, founder and director of the group, said: "We've got a fleet of volunteers who we'll train up as an organisation, who are able to give those students in need of a call and chat about anything and everything, but particularly support them with their well-being."

The chair of the university's wellbeing network, Olivier Levy, says it is "hard to blame the university when the whole country is in disarray" and adds there is a long-term plan in place to support students but the details are still "unclear".

Eve said she found support in talking to other students who were feeling the same as her.

We asked the university's Director of Student Life, Claire Slater, why Eve had not heard from anyone on the mental health team during her time so far.

She said: "First of all I'd like to start by saying personally sorry to this student if that is her experience. This isn't what I expected, we have been proactively reaching out to all students by both telephone and email to check in with them."

She added that the university has been "planning since March" to help students, including organising food parcels delivered to those in quarantine.

The university also told ITV West Country that extra staff members have been hired this year to help look after the welfare of students.


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