Amidst the ongoing deliberations on whether a switch to the online mode of education will be the way forward in the post-COVID world, universities and students across the globe are facing a surging mental health crisis. Discussing mental health itself is still a taboo in many societies; forget institutional spending and addressing it through proper channels. However, the issue is glaring before us and we must understand what is at stake here. Also, much as we try to hit an immediate solution, the issue of mental heath of students, aggravated or caused by the pandemic, is here to stay for long.
Many universities across the world took the issue into consideration and introduced wellness programs, courses on meditation, activities, and campaigns during exams, reflective activities and other stress-management skills to address the issue. However, there are new cases of mental health problems among students once the world went into lockdown.
Although there are regional and national differences, some of the common reasons behind the recent surge in mental health issue among students, as recognised by the experts, are loss of everyday activities, loss of physical touch, socialization that is important for the age and also panic for career, income, economic instability. In a study conducted on the college students of America in April 2020, some of the reasons that were pointed out behind falling mental health conditions for students are - loneliness, financial setbacks, relocation, etc. In the current crisis, the university services are overwhelmed with continuous calls for assistance. On top of that, in the absence of physical proximity, a proper diagnosis is impossible, as laws prohibit telephonic medical assistance in many countries.
But we have to also recognise that as much as a student requires help to cope with up with the changing mode of education, they also need special assistance with the changing environment at a time when traditional wisdom available from their immediate peers may appear redundant. In fact, according to Sarah Brown and Alexander C Kafka, this is the right time to talk about this to students and “in some ways, the COVID-19 era seems like exactly the right time to educate students on how to manage the intense sadness, isolation, and anxiety they are feeling.”
Therefore, colleges themselves need mechanisms to fight the growing demand for mental health issues through proper channels and nuanced methods. What is worrisome for most experts is that students are bound to face endless confusion from information that is up there in public – starting from admission, test results, future of their degrees, shrinking job market. This resilience is the most important factor that a student needs to sail through.
Additionally, we have to recognize that 90% of the students are members of a particular age group and according to UNESCO data some 2-3 billion students are affected. We have to understand how ‘student life’ is deeply connoted with growing up in real sense- socialisation, changing social behavior, contradictions - learning in a much greater sense than ‘teaching’ in a myopic sense of lecturing tool to prepare students for the job market. If distance learning, as is talked about today, does become reality in near future – we have to think about the loss of physical touch a student would face and subsequently the change of socialisation process in youth. If we don’t take these into considerations while thinking about the future of education, we will aggravate the risk of an unhealthy society – mentally and physically. Because, e-classrooms will not have cafés, end of the lectures discussions to vent out!
This article is compiled by QS IGAUGE.