By Abi Edwards
It is hardly surprising that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures have had a negative impact on mental health, particularly for young people. With restrictions on socializing, seeing family, friends and partners, and making new friends at university, the impact of lockdown has caused many feelings of isolation, particularly for students.
According to a survey by the charity Mind, over half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said that their mental health has deteriorated during lockdown, and young people are more likely to have experienced poor mental health during lockdown compared to adults. What is even more concerning is that many students have been asked to isolate in their university accommodation. Living away from family and friends, and for some moving to an entirely new city, this isolation has been extremely damaging for their mental health.
Mental health has been one of the many things overlooked by the UK government during the pandemic, and this isn’t good enough. Fortunately, there are helplines and charities which can help students during lockdown and provide adequate support.
This helpline provides a “non-directive, non-judgmental and non-advisory” listening service for Cardiff students, which operates every night of term between 8pm and 8am. It offers services such as signposting university facilities, taxis, offering advice on mental health issues, loneliness, exam stress, family problems, and are always there if you just want to discuss anything that is bothering you. In their words, “we are here to listen.” They also respect the anonymity of all callers and won’t ask for your personal details or name, unless it is necessary for this to be broken.
Phone number: 02920 870555
This charity provides a 24-hour service, 365 days a year, and according to their website they receive a call for help every six seconds. They offer an email and provide an address on their website if you’d prefer to write your feelings down via email or on paper than speak, as everyone is different. They also provide a self-help app to help you cope with your feelings. If you are struggling at the moment or are worried about someone else, they are there to help you.
Phone number: 116 123
Mind offers a range of services on their website, such as emergency advice and crisis coping tools, and provide guides on helplines, listening services, emergency GP appointments and tips on helping yourself cope, such as relaxing and calming exercises and advice on coping with scary thoughts. If you’re having a rough time at the moment, this charity can help you get the right support, as well as offering advice if you know someone who is struggling.
Phone (Infoline): 0300 123 3393
This is a 24/7 texting service for people who are suffering with mental health problems and need someone to talk to. After an automated text asking the texter about the nature of their problem, they are connected to a “Shout Volunteer” who is trained in using empathy and listening techniques in order for the texter to feel safer and calmer, and can provide further support if the individual’s mental health issues are more long term. They can provide help with issues related to the pandemic such as anxiety, isolation, grief and stress.
Text helpline: 85258
CALM – for men aged 15-35
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (7 days a week, 5pm-midnight)
Anxiety UK – anxiety support
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday-Friday, 9:30am-5:30pm)
SANE – provides support for those affected by mental illness
Helping someone else
You may encounter a loved one, friend or flat mate for example, who may be having a difficult time right now. Let them know that you are there for them, you are there to listen, and they are not alone. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help, such as helping them make a wellbeing diary to jot down their feelings and set goals, but also signpost appropriately if you are worried for their wellbeing. Support them as much as you can while remembering to look after your own mental health, too.
In these scary and uncertain times, it is vital that we prioritise our mental health and support those who are struggling, especially during the current circuit breaker. Mental health will always be just as important as physical health and staying safe also applies to taking care of your mind. Most importantly, never be afraid to get help and support, and remember to always be kind. If we all support each other, we can get through this difficult and testing time.