We spoke to Rachel Lord about how to look after your mental health in lockdown

‘It is just so important to go the extra mile taking care of your mental health’

Students’ mental health seems to be at an all time low right now; we feel isolated and abandoned as the government isn’t giving us support. There have been too many student tragedies during the pandemic and more needs to be done to prevent them.

Rachel Lord, a third year politics student at Lancaster University, and Furness College JCR Media and Communications officer, is spreading awareness about mental health across her social media platforms, managing to generate a large following. We spoke to Rachel about looking after our mental health in the pandemic and how the university can do more to support its students.

“I would love to help just one person go and get help”

Rachel started talking about mental health on YouTube where she began openly discussing her own battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to educate her audience about the mental illness. Rachel told us: “I decided to start with OCD as I felt it was and still is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses as people view it as this cleaning disorder when it is far more complex and far more distressing than that. I carried on with videos after that talking about my own mental health and my own experiences.”

The reason Rachel started talking about her mental health was because she saw a tweet about OCD which then encouraged her to get help. Rachel said: “I would love to help just one person go and get help. I try to focus on OCD as it’s something I struggle with on the daily and when I first started getting the symptoms of it I just really didn’t know what it was so I wanted to raise awareness so if anyone is going through the same, they might stumble across my content and it might help.”

“I have 91,000 followers on TikTok now”

Rachel not only has a supportive following on YouTube but also on TikTok, with Rachel saying: “I have 91,000 followers on TikTok now and this is a huge platform and I’m glad I can use this to help raise awareness about mental health conditions.”

Also, Rachel has revived her mental health Instagram: “I wanted to use that to highlight lots of different issues from grief to a variety of mental health conditions.

“I make ‘educational threads’ on mental illnesses because it’s so important that mental health awareness includes more than just anxiety and depression because when people don’t talk about the others, those with the other conditions may not know what’s going on and it can lead to an increase in stigma and misconceptions about these illnesses.”

“Lockdowns have been devastating for our mental health”

The pandemic has taken away the ease of accessing vital support that many students rely on. Rachel said: “Lockdowns have been absolutely devastating for our mental health as they have taken away our support groups, our therapy, our daily activities and just our normal life and taking about this stability has a real impact on those who require a set plan for the day.”

Rachel opened up about her own anxiety about going outside again with the “eat out to help out” scheme last summer. She told us: “With my anxiety, I have to train myself to be calm in situations and knowing how to calm myself down and how to know when something is bothering me and when you’re taking yourself away from this stressful environment, when you come back everything is so much worse and it’s like going back to square one.”

“This lockdown has been a lot harder than March”

Rachel went onto say that she believes that this third national lockdown has been the hardest one yet. She explained that last March we had “Tiger King, Joe Wicks’ workouts, that whipped coffee, Chloe Ting, virtual pub quizzes, zoom parties” which brought us together, but now she believes “that connectiveness has gone away.”

Rachel continued to say that a winter lockdown is harder than a summer lockdown. “I think a winter lockdown was always going to be tough due to a lack of daylight and cold days and it has been hard because during the summer lockdown, you could go out at 6/7 PM and go on your daily exercise outdoors but now the times you can go outside are significantly limited.”

“Keep in contact with your friends and flatmates”

We asked Rachel what her advice would be to anyone struggling with their mental health in lockdown: “Reaching out would be my best advice. At Lancaster, each college has a CAT team where you can chat about anything but for more serious issues, the mental health university service is likely a better route to take. As a Lancaster student, you get one year of Silvercloud for free (I believe!) and Silvercloud is an online resource which covers a variety of issues that you can take through at your own pace.”

Rachel expressed the fact that keeping in contact with loved ones is so important: “Keep in contact with your friends and flatmates, especially over some kind of FaceTime as I feel a lot closer to my friends when I’m actually talking and seeing them than I do over text.”

‘There needs to be more mental health services and places for people to talk where they are listened to’

Finally, we asked Rachel what she thinks the uni should be doing more of to support their students: “One of the things I would like to see uni do is introduce a safety net for students because this is a year unlike any other, and many can’t return to university so they’re unable to produce the kind of work that they may have done if they had proper access to the uni and library and a quiet space.

“There need to be more mental health services and places for people to talk. I think the mental health service needs a change because there are so many negative stories out there about people being turned away. University is an extremely difficult time and there should’ve been more support in place for students over this pandemic.”

A petition to introduce a safety net policy can be found here.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Deputy VC’s response to ‘safety net’ petitions proves student wellbeing isn’t a priority

Lancaster is letting its students down by not giving us a safety net

Here’s how to stay motivated to actually do some uni work this term