Going home is not a magic fix for every university student. Stop treating it like one

I am literally between a rock and a hard place


Right now, there is a mental health crisis happening within higher education. The decline of student mental wellbeing across the UK is terrifying. But what’s scarier is the fact that no one seems to give a shit about any of it. How many more students need to die before our mental health gets taken seriously? Nine students have passed away since September. That’s nine lives lost as a result of our universities showing a dangerous lack of support.

That being said, we are in way too deep for any sort of quick fix. Being a student trying to navigate your way through a pandemic means you need more support than a spontaneous weekend at home with your parents. It doesn’t work like that. Let me tell you now, there’s nothing more frustrating that being told to “just go home” if we say we’re struggling. Going home to our families will not bring the pandemic to a halt. Going home won’t magically make every looming deadline disappear. Going home won’t stop students from dying. Please, take our mental health seriously.

Students have been ignored for months on end. No one cares about how we are coping at university, so many of us aren’t coping. We are stuck living between a rock and a hard place. Either we’re blamed for the second wave or we’re being villanised for killing our gran on national news. We cannot escape the thought that we are hated by so many people. Our universities tell us how important our mental health is but they show no signs of wanting to support us and improve it. If you are not a student then you won’t be able to comprehend how hard it is.

The university I joined back in September 2018 is not the same university I currently attend. It is like the entire world has flipped and there is no hope for going back to how things once were. Yeah sure, going home will mean some of us might not have to wash our clothes or cook ourselves dinner. But that doesn’t mean we won’t sit in our rooms at home, isolated, overthinking and feeling like we have been fucked over once again. Our minds are constantly switched on, a hug from our parents or walking our dogs won’t turn them off. All the time I am thinking about what the government is, or isn’t, going to do next –  I am so exhausted. Students are so exhausted.

Before you tell a student to “just go home,” you need to think about whether that is even an option for them. They might not want to go home. Home might not be a good place for them. Bad Wi-Fi connection, loud working conditions and family distractions might seem small to some, but with uni students now doing the majority (if not all) of their work online – it’s everything to them. For some students, it’s even bigger than this. It’s abusive families. Trauma being brought back to the front of their minds. Being isolated with their parents who they might have a bad relationship with. For a lot of students it is hard at home and it’s hard at uni.

I’m not going to pretend I’m 100 per cent happy at home. I’m not. That’s not because my parents aren’t supportive and loving, because they are. I am lucky enough to have a close relationship with my parents but at the same time, there are parts to me being at home which make me truly depressed. The alternative I am looking for does not exist anymore. I used to feel truly blessed to have the chance to switch between home and uni when one or the other got too tough. But now all my best friends at uni have left to go home. I’ve lost my support network here. I’ve also lost my uni life as I knew it. I am fully aware I can never get that back – I know this, that’s not the problem. The problem is when people tell me to go home like it will solve everything. Like it’ll undo the failures of the government on student’s mental health. It won’t. It’s too late for that.

The news broke yesterday that students will be able to go home for Christmas after Matt Hancock toyed with the idea of keeping us caged up at uni. For a lot of students this will be a lifeline, something to look forward to. But other students have been mentally preparing for the opposite news, the thought of not being with our loved ones on Christmas Day is something we’ve been trying to comprehend for weeks. I can’t help but think about those nine students who won’t get to go home for Christmas. Nothing can be done about it. So many students are finding themselves slipping into dark places, a roast dinner with their parents won’t take those thoughts away. Going home will not make us forget how traumatic this year has been. And for some students, it will only make matters worse.

Students are living with so much pressure and sometimes it feels as if there isn’t a single person trying to relieve it. It doesn’t matter if that pressure is academic, mental health, family issues or personal issues. Going home will not remove any of the strain from these stresses. Please be kind to students. We are really, really going through it. So many of us were gaslit into coming back to uni in September. We aren’t just statistics or ways uni’s can clear their debt – we are people.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.

The Tab’s You Matter campaign is putting a focus on student mental health right now. If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s difficulties with getting uni support, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

You matter.

Read more from The Tab’s You Matter campaign:

• The government need to stop blaming young people for following the rules they enforced

• Sussex students urged not to return home in lockdown in order to ‘save lives’

• University confession page admins say suicide posts have doubled