59 per cent of Wales’ students say their mental health has deteriorated or been affected negatively by Covid-19, while a quarter have actively sought support, according to a survey by NUS (National Union of Students).
The findings come as NUS Wales launches its manifesto for the upcoming Senedd election, which calls for a Wales-wide mental health strategy for university students, college students and apprentices.
‘Education for a Fairer Wales’, launched 100 days before the Senedd election is due to take place, calls on parties contesting the election to prioritise investment in free, liberated and accessible post-16 education to ensure the social and economic recovery from the pandemic results in a more equitable and sustainable Wales.
The manifesto makes a series of recommendations and covers four policy areas: Education for a Fairer Student Experience; for a Fairer Society; for a Fairer Economy; and for a Fairer Future.
Representing more than 250,000 apprentices, college and university students in the post-16 education sector, NUS Wales is encouraging its members to use their vote this May – including 16 and 17-year-olds, who will be able to vote in a Welsh election for the first time.
The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase III was conducted in November and was completed by over 4,000 students across the UK, including 201 in Wales.
The survey also found that only 39 per cent of students in Wales are sleeping well, and that 35 per cent agree that they feel good about themselves. Just 12 per cent report seeing friends once a week or more, and 26 per cent say the same of students on their course. 58 per cent are interacting less with their friends.
Becky Ricketts, NUS Wales President, said –
“We know poor mental health is fast becoming the second pandemic, and our survey demonstrates the strain students are under because of Covid-19. It’s vital that mental health services in our education institutions can cope with the impact of the pandemic, and that the NHS is equipped to deal with students’ issues.
“Students face a unique set of pressures which have been exacerbated by Covid-19. Educational, social and financial strains have only been worsened by the pandemic. This won’t just affect today’s cohort of students – the generational trauma of the pandemic means we will be dealing with the mental health impacts in post-16 education for decades to come.
“I’m calling on candidates in the election to back our calls for a student mental health plan for Wales. I’m grateful that Welsh Government has made student mental health a priority during the pandemic, but without a sector-wide approach too many students are still falling through the cracks.”