Students go through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout their university experience. So it is vital that right from the beginning of their studies that they are given pointers towards support for their mental health.
Speaking to Ian Hurst, co-founder of mental health and suicide prevention non-profit organisation We Are Hummingbird, he shared some of his wisdom to provide an insight into what the higher education sector can do to support the mental health of students.
One of the most exciting things about University for so many students is moving away from home for the first time. Having your own space, being independent, and living your own life is how thousands of students spend their years whilst studying. However, this year has provided a different take for many who had those intentions. Not that it stopped students entirely from moving out, but perhaps it put things into perspective.
Universities moved their lessons online very quickly in March and that remains to be the case today for many universities in the new academic year. Also with the new national lockdown lasting four weeks, it has been put into question if students could even return home in time for the Christmas break. Ian Hurst believes that universities should be doing more to communicate with their students to provide more support.
“I think there is a huge opportunity to communicate better to students about the support available for their mental health.” – Ian Hurst
Perspective students who are in the process of applying to university will often attend a lot of open days which include campus tours and talks from senior figures from institutions. With all of the standard information, students are given, there should absolutely be room for talks about mental health, Hurst believes. “We have a generation who wish to discover, learn, and talk more about important subjects, such as mental wellbeing. So offering a talk on this topic would be a real step forward in taking preventive measures.”
As well as hosting talks discussing wellbeing, the idea of having basic mental health training for staff is simple yet it could prove to be effective. Creating awareness for such an issue amongst students will provide them with a meaningful insight, which can then enable them to identify their own feelings as well as others around them.
“I would be actively encouraging all universities to roll out some form of engaging mental health training as an absolute must. There is really no excuse not to.” said Hurst.
We are currently living through a stressful time. The impact of Covid-19 has left students with a heightened sense of anxiety. Now more than ever students are in need of support due to the circumstances but Hurst does not believe enough is being given.
“I think students are being left to juggle too many balls without fully understanding what they feel or really think.”
Hurst sounded-off by talking about what exactly can be done to help reduce and find ways to better the mental states of students. “More prevention training needs to be offered so that the numbers of students experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression can be reduced.”