A Look Back on Mental Health Awareness Week

28 May 2020
By Jenny Shaw, Student Experience Director at Unite Students
With last week being Mental Health Awareness Week, we thought it was a perfect time to take a look back on how we have approached it in the context of the unprecedented challenge for everyone’s mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supporting student mental health is a challenge that we have always sought to meet.  This year it is a challenge that is exacerbated by social isolation.  No longer are we able to sit with a student, make them a brew and talk.  We have very little opportunity to spot changes in behaviour that would normally be a flag for our Welfare Leads to double check everything is ok.  And of course we know from our own research that loneliness and social isolation are strongly associated with poorer wellbeing among students.

Whilst this challenge is not easily overcome, we have been working hard throughout this period, and with even more focus during Mental Health Awareness Week, to provide support and enable social connection for students still living with us, those at home but missing their student community, and those hoping to come to university in the autumn. 

We have teamed up with our Student Ambassadors and student writers to put on a programme of events to help get everyone through this uncertain time, from live chats to recipes, advice to cleaning.  Each day, on our social media channels and on The Common Room these tips, articles, vlogs and blogs have been helping students think of new and inventive ways to keep busy, productive and mentally well throughout lockdown and beyond.

It is these small moments of kindness and connection that we have all missed during the last two months, something I touch on in this short video in conjunction with the British Property Federation. Helping students to still feel part of a community is a vital way to support their mental health through this period of isolation. And we all look forward to the day we can be together again.

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Jenny Shaw is Student Experience Director for Unite Students. She has previously worked for three UK universities and as a consultant to national HE sector organisations prior to her time at Unite Students.