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Experts say impact of pandemic still affecting university students’ mental health

University students are continuing to struggle with mental health difficulties triggered by the pandemic, according to experts.

Growing numbers of young people are seeking help from peer-run helplines citing anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Nightline, the student-run listening and information services open at night-time, has recorded a 51.4 per cent increase in calls in 2020-21, with early data indicating a 30 per cent increase for the 2021-22 year, and a further increase of 23 per cent since the start of the current academic year.

The 52-year-old anonymous listening service, which exists on campuses around the UK, said that there had been a significant spike of 10.9 per cent in callers discussing stress and anxiety.

This figure has risen to 17 per cent since September, alongside a rise in students concerned about their finances.

In a report outlining the findings, Simon Pickles, head of engagement and communications for the Nightline Association, said the latest data shows the huge impact Covid-19 continues to have on students.

“The pandemic had a profound impact on student life, from the way students learn, socialise and access resources to the challenges and hardships they face,” he said.

“The data and insights in this report shows that Nightline Services have adapted to support the new challenges of student life and continue to deliver against our core vision as a charity.”

The news comes as many students are “struggling to survive” as government support fails to keep pace with the soaring cost of living.

Universities have raised concerns about the rising financial pressure facing many students that has forced them to take on more paid work in addition to their studies in a bid to cope with increased costs.

And an October report by MillionPlus found that almost 300,000 students will be gravely impacted by the cost-of-living crisis if financial support is not introduced, new analysis has warned.

Rachel Hewitt, chief executive of the association for modern universities in the UK, said students come from a range of backgrounds which impacts the type of support required.

“If the UK Government does not address the financial challenges ahead for students this academic year, it risks a student recruitment and retention crisis which could have a long-term damaging impact on its own education and skills agenda,” she warned.