Before Covid-19, mental health issues for teenagers were rapidly on the increase, adding to already harrowing growing pains.
The pandemic has seen the mental states of youth fall drastically as the usual pressures of teenage life now have an added element of social isolation.
NHS England data show that teenage girls’ hospital admissions for self-harm have tripled in the last decade.
The rise of social media may have contributed to these troubling figures with apps such as Instagram, allowing photo manipulation which can perpetuate already prominent unrealistic beauty standards for women.
Forbes has reported that almost 40 per cent of girls who spend more than five hours on social media show depression symptoms.
With the added impact of lockdown, many youths have had no other choice but to turn to online platforms as their only form of communication.
We spoke to an anonymous first-year Art student who told us:
“Every single girl I know has dealt with body issues due to Instagram … With lockdown we are constantly on technology, we can’t escape this idea of what we should be doing and what we should look like.”
Body image struggles have already been hugely prominent amongst young women with teenage girls 10 times more likely to develop anorexia than boys.
Students often suffer from the same/similar issues with 1 in 5 students having a current mental health diagnosis in 2020 as reported by the University Mental Health Survey.
During the pandemic, many students have seen their mental well-being decline due to the isolation factor, missing out on key experiences.
Online learning has often not provided the support and social aspect that is seen as a necessary component of university life.
For first years, many have moved across the country or from abroad to have an education that has been mostly or entirely online.
The student continued: “It’s more motivating learning in person, it provides a distraction.
“Art is a very social subject … it’s hard that we don’t have those social interactions … you’re not being inspired by others around you.”
Students have been expected to isolate in accommodation with little to no opportunity to socialise, sometimes thousands of miles away from their families.
The adverse effects of this are overwhelming, as the ONS reports that 57 per cent of students have experienced worse mental health since the pandemic began.
As a previous The Student article highlighted, the University of Edinburgh’s handling of this crisis has seen massive delays in counselling appointments.
Another first-year student we spoke to told us she was presented with a “five-week wait” when applying for counselling when she needed “immediate help”, leading to a decline in her academic performance.
EUTV has provided a mental health documentary with an interview from a former student, Morgan Jenkin, who said:
“Everything I can think about the support I got at University was lacklustre on the whole and I look back at that period of time and I am amazed that I managed to survive.”
The delays in services in the recent pandemic were also brought up in the documentary in which Andy Shanks, Director of Student Wellbeing, responded:
“If someone’s got an urgent situation where we feel that there are risks, then we will see them as quickly as we can.”
Image: Victoruler via Wikimedia Commons