Imagine it: you’re trapped in a small room far from friends and family, unable to go out and meet people. Trying to study and form new relationships through a screen. The pressure to cope, but the fear of Covid.
The stark reality for students last year, it’s no wonder that more than half of them reported that their mental health was affected.
With anxiety, loneliness and depression piled on top of the usual pressures of living in a new city, being away from their support network, and adjusting to a learning experience that’s noticeably different from school – 2020 was reported as the worst year on record for student mental health.
So what did unis do to alleviate things?
With face-to-face contact a no-no, and today’s students highly engaged with all kinds of tech, it was a no-brainer for lots of unis to turn to social media to deliver mental health support services. Many also used social platforms to encourage students to share their experiences and create a sense of togetherness during the pandemic.
And now that we’re in this post-lockdown phase, many are keeping their social channels going as a valuable source of information and support for students.
Let’s take a closer look.
Creating a hub of connection
With the pandemic making it harder for students to form connections, The University of Lincoln set up their own online hub during lockdown called Student Life. It’s a place for students to get to know one another before and during uni and build those all-important support networks. The comms team post across Twitter, Facebook, Insta, TikTok and YouTube, so it’s easy for students to follow the latest hub info. They can even get involved in helping to run the hub, with paid positions on offer to enhance their CV, job prospects and resilience. The scheme has had a high uptake, and is set to continue this academic year and beyond.
Finding the balance
Another big source of stress for students (aside from the obvious health concerns) was knowing where they stood on things like accommodation, teaching arrangements and plans for assessment. So universities have been researching exactly what students need to know about, so they can share the right info at the right time, and promote their wellbeing services effectively on social.
The University of Sussex has taken a curated approach to wellbeing; they didn’t want to bombard their student body with too much info, so they carefully drip fed the comms that went out to get that balance just right.
Other unis have been using social listening tools (available on a management platform like ours) to monitor for early warning signs when any individual student’s mental health is deteriorating. They use the platform’s monitoring function to listen for keywords in social posts, even when students aren’t talking directly to the institution. It means universities can reach out to students who are struggling and give them the support they need.
Using social as a channel for support
Ultimately, student mental health is still front and centre for universities in the UK and elsewhere. And as we move into this new phase of uni life, with hybrid studying and a lot of teaching still happening online, students will continue to need extra support and reassurance. Social media gives your HEI an effective channel to provide that support in the best way for your students.
Find out how you can use social media to enhance your mental health support strategy. Book a free demo with one of our team.