Covid-19 has Amplified Student Loneliness and Distress

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The Covid-19 is a ‘Black Swan’ in 2020 that destroys everyone’s daily life. It not only takes away lives from people, but also leads to mental health issues for people who need to stay indoors.  As Leeds University has not been asked to close, a growing concern for the well-being of students has become a major issue faced by the university. 

Even before a second wave occurred in the UK, students were told to keep socially distanced when they moved back to campus. Although most of the fresher events were moved online, there already are over 500 new cases in the University of Leeds alone. Students have complained about mental health issues during self-isolation, especially for freshers who missed out on the opportunities to meet with new people.

Meanwhile, students also faced the stress of being blamed by politicians and media for the second wavepressure as they usually be blamed as the main reason of the massive outbreak of the virus.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister came out with a three -tier lock down system. This will mean that universities will faces more challenges related to student mental health. For the most high-risk areas pubs and bars will be closed, except where serving substantial meals. Gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos will also close. However, the sacrifice may be more than a huge loss to the economy. 

Some students who have arrived on campus are  considering going back home again. Evie, a Leeds university sociology student who decided to move back and stay with family because of safety and mental health issues,  pointed out that it was more likely for her to stay focused on work and self-development during the early stage of pandemic. However, it has been over half a year, and it has become a challenge to enjoy her daily life on campus:

“Everyday when I wake up I just feel that I struggle to manage the time and am not productive anymore.’”

Indeed, there are growing numbers of students who complain that they lack the passion to study online in the room while your bed is right beside you.

“While feeling the daytime passing, it again brings more pressure for yourself.”

In terms of international students, not only do most of them come from an area that has a better situation compared with the UK, they have been met with a lack of opportunities to explore the new city they will study for a few years. Meanwhile, the  food boxs that the University have sent out for self-isolation have not met the expectations of some students. 

International students who study at home also need to do so with a large time difference, which means they are unlikely to get involved in online lectures and social events afterwards.  Shrik, an Indian student who studies electronics and computer engineering at Leeds said:

“It is hard to balance the study hour and experience on campus. I am less likely to go to the common room this year because I am not sure whether the other flat mates could bring in the virus. Therefore, it means I can’t feel relaxed or able to talk to people in a normal way. Staying alone can lead to overthinking about issues and increase anxiety in general.”  

On the other hand, teaching staff also have to learn a new way to conduct lectures online. Both lecturers and students are still getting used to engaging online. A lack of sense of belonging and studying online from another country brings a new question related to the education system. People start to miss the campus service, which is one of the main parts of their education. However, based on social distancinge rules, the university librariesy, gym, and a small number of face to face teaching are all that remain availablegoing.

The pandemic is a global challenge for all universities, which is also a huge challenge for university management. There will be more work undertaken to further support student groups, especially as more postgraduate students join in next January.

Image Credit: The World