University Mental Health Day 2021

A 2020 report by Randstad into student wellbeing found that 37% of students experienced a decline in their mental wellbeing since starting higher education. In addition to students reporting a decline in mental wellbeing since starting higher education, 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic has brought additional challenges. Almost ¾ of students reported their mental health to have declined during lockdown. Having graduated from university in July 2020, student and graduate mental health is something I am very passionate about. For University Mental Health Day 2021, I wanted to explore the issues affecting students and graduates in 2021 and how you can support students and graduates during this difficult time, including:
Let's get the nation talking about student mental health

1. Coronavirus and living through uncertainty

2. The struggle to stay healthy

3. Eco anxiety

What is University Mental Health Day 2021?

According to the Uni Mental Health Day website:

“University Mental Health Day brings together the university community to make mental health a university-wide priority and create ongoing year round change to the future of student mental health.”

University Mental Health Day is about bringing greater awareness to student mental health and starting conversations which can help create change to support student mental health throughout the year. In 2021, University Mental Health Day falls on Thursday 4th March. You can get involved with University Mental Health Day by using #unimentalhealthday to share your thoughts on why student mental health is important and how student mental health could be improved. Other ideas for getting involved with University Mental Health Day include running virtual events, fundraise or contact a senior leader at your university to let them know your thoughts on how your university could be supporting student mental health better. 

Student Mental Health - Issues Affecting Students and Graduates in 2021

University Mental Health Day 2021 - Coronavirus and Living Through Uncertainty 

University Mental Health Week 2021 - Lack of Jobs

For University Mental Health Day 2021 - one of the biggest factors affecting student mental health is the current pandemic. The Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns throughout the world has brought many of us to feel uncertain about the future - but students and graduates who are at a transition point in their life are among the most affected by this. In 2020 the UK economy shrunk by 9.9% and this has had a huge impact on young people, with those under 25 being more than twice as likely to have lost their job during the Coronavirus pandemic between August - October 2020.  

For students and graduates who are unemployed or struggling to find work prospects for after graduation, the impact of unemployment can go beyond the financial effect. According to Banyan Mental Health, unemployment can have the following effects on mental health:

  • Loss of purpose
  • Depression
  • Insecurity and lack of confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 

In addition to the uncertainty surrounding job prospects and high unemployment, according to Mind, students may also find their mental health impacted by other aspects of the virus. Students may feel angry that they are unable to meet other students to make friends and disappointed with their current university experience. In addition, new teaching methods can be difficult to adjust to and could be overwhelming. Students may also feel frustrated about how their university is dealing with the pandemic or judged by others and the media by the negative portrayal of students. There is no “normal” response to the current situation and it is completely okay to be feeling any or none of these feelings.

University Mental Health Day 2021 - The Struggle to Stay Healthy

The stereotypical student lifestyle is not considered to be the most healthy. With long hours studying, a social life which may well involve downing pints of beer whilst your mates chant… and perhaps a part time job, sleep and eating patterns can be irregular. Plus, this eating may often involve meal deals picked up on the go, quick ready meals and takeaways to fit around a busy student lifestyle. The Coronavirus pandemic may have changed this somewhat but university assignments continue (potentially being completed in the early hours of the morning), drinking nights with your flatmates or on Zoom are now the normal Friday night activity and let's face it - takeaways are one of the small things we have all learnt to appreciate during the current pandemic. 

University Mental Health Week 2021 - Staying Healthy

“We have seen a growing trend for students to be more healthy and sustainability-conscious in recent years, moving well away from the outdated stereotype of the junk food-eating student,” says Prof Fiona Cownie, pro-vice-chancellor for education and student experience at Keele University. In addition to the benefits to physical health, leading a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet can also help to protect against depression. As more and more students attempt to balance university life with a healthy lifestyle to benefit their physical and mental health, here are 5 top tips for improving your diet:

  1. Eating regularly - this can help to keep your blood sugar consistent, with inconsistent blood sugar levels being linked to anxiety and depression.
  2. Drink plenty of water - staying hydrated will help to keep up your energy levels, help you to stay focused and also help stop you from craving unhealthy foods.
  3. Eating a balanced diet - this can help give your brain the nutrients it needs which can help support brain function and boost your mood.
  4. Cut back on the junk food - consuming vast amounts of processed foods including sugary soft drinks and highly processed foods with added salt and fat can be linked to worse mental and physical health.
  5. Feed your gut - a diet which includes a variety of plants and seeds and thus is high in fibre can be linked to reduced levels of depression

University Mental Health Day 2021 - Eco Anxiety 

Eco Anxiety - Ice Caps Melting

According to Psychology Today, eco anxiety is a “psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis”. With 32% of 18 - 34 year old's being “extremely/ very worried about climate change” - higher than any other age group, it is likely that for many students, eco anxiety is a growing issue. Eco anxiety can include feeling powerless and frustrated about climate change and feeling stressed about the impact on the world for future generations. Plus, with the current lockdown there is more time than ever to worry, including about climate change. One way to deal with eco anxiety is to make climate change a factor in the everyday decisions that impact how you live your life.

Here are 3 easy ways you can start doing your bit to help prevent climate change:

  1. Eat less meat - according to Greenpeace, in countries such as the UK, we need to be eating 70% less meat by 2030 to prevent climate breakdown - so this is a great place to start your journey towards being more sustainable. 
  2. Switch to green energy - changing to an energy supplier which uses renewable energy not only benefits the planet but could also save you £300 per year!
  3. Ditch single use plastic - roughly 8 million pieces of plastic end up in the ocean every single day! Shop mindfully and make how an item is packaged a factor in your purchasing decisions and stay away from items packaged in single use plastic as much as possible.

If you would like to send a little sustainable care package to a student in your life, take a look at our Sustainable University Student Starter Packs. The packs contain sustainable alternatives to student essentials including stationery, toiletries and kitchen items and are the perfect practical gift to give a student a little mood boost and show them you are thinking of them.

For University Mental Health Day 2021 I have rounded up what University Mental Health Day is and 3 of the top issues affecting students in 2021 and some tips for coping with these issues. Including, the uncertainty brought by the current pandemic, the struggle to stay healthy and eco anxiety. I would love to hear how you are getting involved in University Mental Health Day 2021 - comment below or get in touch on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook.

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