Cardiff, Covid and mental health: How deep are the impacts of the pandemic?

‘I’m emotionally exhausted’

Although the academic year has only just begun, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it a very different start to the year for students. Many have spent time in isolation, being unable to leave their houses or student accommodation, while others have been hit with the social alterations – being unable to meet up with friends outside of their household. No longer do students study on-campus during the day, it’s predominantly moved online. Not to mention, most students escape, sporting or other societies, have been stopped or moved online too.

These drastic changes have affected students like never before. It’s hardly surprising that we’re seeing increasing loneliness, anxiety and cases of cabin fever. The Cardiff Tab spoke to several of the city’s students to find out how their mental health has been impacted by the Covid pandemic alongside returning to university.

“I’m emotionally exhausted. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the changes”

One student told The Cardiff Tab that she felt “emotionally exhausted” by the whole experience, adding: “I have had a covid scare already, after going out of my house just a couple of times. Having to self-isolate already is making me think that this will be a continuous cycle all year. In and out of isolation. As soon as you leave the house, the risk is gigantic.”

The student continues: “I feel frustrated that universities have told us to return when there is absolutely no reason to. Sitting in my box bedroom in a uni house with people I barely know really isn’t the thriving social life I’d anticipated. Everything’s changed, and certainly not for the better”.

Student’s have been prompted by both the government and their universities that returning would be safe and necessary, when it appears that for many it has been neither.

The student told The Cardiff Tab: “I’ve been struggling to get any work done when all I can think about is whether I’ll have to isolate, how am I going to afford losing out on work, how can I pay the bills? I’m extremely worried that my university degree will suffer as a result”.

Longer waiting lists and ‘timetabling shambles’ don’t help

We spoke to a student who struggles with anxiety, which she explained is kept at bay by having a routine. However, “the timetabling shambles has completely done the opposite”, causing her anxiety to go through the roof.

The student also told The Cardiff Tab that she has always felt “whenever I’ve voiced my mental health issues I’m shoved in front of a service that has a five month waiting list, and that list is only going to be longer now because more and more people are struggling”. For many, they feel there is a lack of services offered to students to support their wellbeing and mental health, and online sessions are not the same.

university life is certainly nothing like it used to be

“I’ve had days where I’ve felt anxious and don’t really know how to deal with it”

Another Cardiff University student told us: “The uncertainty has definitely had an impact on my mental health. The thought of having to isolate again for a long period of time is really daunting, especially now not knowing when I’m next going to be able to see my family.

“I’ve had days where I’ve felt anxious and don’t really know how to deal with it. I feel like the lack of support for students at this time is really starting to take it’s toll on everyone and it’s just stressful!”

Others actions affect us all, and that’s so frustrating!

The Cardiff Tab spoke with a student who said: “We came into contact with a girl who hadn’t told us that she was awaiting the results of a test (even though she should’ve been isolating herself) and then her test came back positive”.

The student went on to explain that “it’s infuriating because situations like this could’ve been easily avoided. We’ve all got a couple of face to face lectures which we’ve now had to miss because of the situation. It’s also frustrating because people acting stupidly affects the rest of us massively and will put such a downer on the rest of the term if more and more things are restricted.”

everything has changed for this year’s students

It’s clear that students’ mental health has been hugely impacted by Covid, and this is only likely to increase as the pandemic continues. Students are stuck in their university housing, in intense work situations, with conventional ways of relaxing being shut off.

Whether it’s a lack of clarity from universities, dealing with others’ stupidity or emotional exhaustion, students are facing the affects of the pandemic and need support now more than ever.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Wales to enter a two-week ‘fire break’ lockdown

• Lecturers, stop forcing us to turn our cameras on

• The new normal: a Cardiff student’s average week during Covid