In December 2019, A new specialist NHS service in Greater Manchester was set up, to provide Salford university students with the help they need to overcome significant mental illness. But how important has the service been with the detrimental effects that the Covid 19 pandemic has had on student mental health?
The scheme aims to provide expert support for students who have complex health needs – giving them timely access to professional help for conditions including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Just some of the mental health illnesses students face during their studies.
These are all mental health issues that have become more prominent, particularly depression and anxiety, for students during the Covid 19 pandemic.
I spoke to Francesca Johnson, a student of BIMM music college in Manchester, who do not have access to the service. she is one of many students who has been finding life difficult since the pandemic began.
I also spoke to Steven Eccles, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, whose role is to offer clinical leadership in developing the service and also to provide psychological therapy alongside the other Clinical Psychologists and psychological therapists in the team.
I asked him how from his first-hand experiences with students, does he feel they are coping during the pandemic.
“Covid has clearly severely impacted on students and their experience of being at university, both in terms of their learning experience but also on their ability to interact with other students and develop relationships.
We know from psychological research that social connection is essential for good mental health. Covid also led to lots of uncertainty both in terms of potential risks to health of themselves and also their families and friends, and also more generally about the future. Uncertainty generally tends to make individuals anxious.
“I have no doubt Covid has had an impact to varying degrees on the mental health of many students. It has led to significant changes in the student’s interaction with university teaching, reduced social interaction, increased uncertainty/worry. It has also reduced student’s ability to engage with activities they find help them maintain good mental health including socialising, sports and leisure activities.”
Mr Eccles went on to discuss how the service has had positive affects on students despite the pandemics negative impact on their mental health.
‘As a team we are aware in our contact with students how Covid is impacting on their lives and their mental health.
In our interactions we provide time and space for them to talk about these difficulties and try to help them manage their worries and cope as best is possible in this period. Having the same member of the team with whom the student has contact with provides some level of social contact and routine when some much in the world in reduced and uncertain.
I am pleased that we have received some very positive feedback form those students who have accessed our service.’
Salford University Students really are privileged to have access to such a beneficial service, in such a time when student mental health is at its lowest.
If you are suffering in these tough times and need professional support, follow this link to access this service.