WELCOME TO FRESHERS WEEK… which you are likely to spend within the confines of your cell like room, possibly with limited access to a communal area shared with strangers, in a new city/town that you are unfamiliar with, separated from family for the first extended period of time. Sound fun?
Increasingly I am speaking with friends whose offspring have gone to University and the experience so far has been utterly miserable.
I’m not talking about missing out on booze fuelled nights and waking up in a strangers bed… I’m referring to basic lack of food provision (even in catered halls) and the detrimental effect that prolonged isolation is having on their mental wellbeing.
Even without the current Covid-19 situation, 3/4 of adults with mental health illness had their first episode before reaching the age of 25. Experiencing high levels of stress during the transition to University can in ‘normal’ circumstances lead to depression and anxiety; without their usual support network around them this age group is particularly vulnerable.
There appears to be limited duty of care from the Universities and conflicting information between guidance supplied via their help-lines and the law enforced rules of track and trace. How confident are we that the track and trace system is able to differentiate between ‘bubbles’ in halls of residence? I have heard of a number of cases where students have been ordered to isolate for back-to-back periods, when they haven’t even left their flat.
As a parent you are hardwired to protect your children no matter what; this lasts way beyond their childhood, when as young adults they are making their own decisions, yet their protection remains at our core. However, your gut wrenching desire to swoop in and bring them home to ‘safety’ is ill advised and could result in flouting Government enforced rules. Although I see very few parents actually allowing the prospect of their children spending Christmas on campus.
At a time when students should be expanding their friendship groups and laying the foundations for their future networking community, they are instead trapped in groups of six or worse, suffering from severe loneliness through isolation.
It will come as no consolation at the moment, but what these students are unwittingly developing is resilience and an ability to adjust their expectations by adapting to the cards they have been dealt.
Many have zero hours face-to-face content for their courses which are being entirely delivered virtually, for the privilege of £9k+ per year plus £6k+ accommodation fees. The average student debt for a British student in an English University is a staggering £40,280.
But this is not the cost that concerns me the most… it is the lasting effects that this is going to have on the future mental health of our young adults whom we traditionally have proudly encouraged to embark on this Great University Experience.