Although procedures such as this now seem the norm, the effectiveness of the university’s response to dealing with Covid ought to be recognised, and those who helped applauded. The rapidity with which the cases have been confirmed and mobile testing units installed outside Agnes Blackadder have been impressive. Moreover, the way in which the university are taking leaps to aid with student mental health in wellbeing week is worth a mention.
That being said, whilst the university is successfully tackling the more obvious problem of active cases, the general struggle the student body faces with regard to mental health requires more confrontation. As we walk the path to normality, the lasting effect of mental health during the past year and the lessons learnt about the importance of social interaction ought not be forgotten.
In conversation with students, the sentiment seems to be one of disappointment. Although the university has certainly made efforts to support student mental health, the feedback from students implies that those efforts have come across as disingenuous. One such student said the communication had felt more like a ‘PR effort’ than an active and genuine pursuit of student wellbeing. Indeed, services such as counselling appear to be offered retroactively rather than being a normalised process.
In conversation with a second student, it is recognised that the services tackling mental health issues often come after an infringement of university COVID policy, rather than pre-emptively to any form of rule breaking. This student had been offered access to an assistant warden on duty alongside counselling services. Whilst the university has obviously taken some form of action to improve the situation in which the student body remaining at St Andrews have found themselves, this retroactive action is not conducive to alleviating student desire to have social contact.
Wellbeing week that just passed, ought to see the beginning of a new proactivity with regards to mental health, encouraging conversations about individual health. The activities include yoga, self-care classes and a really interesting discussion on the de-stigmatization of neurodivergent people.
The work being done by the wellbeing subcommittee is an important step in the general conversation regarding work that can be done by students to improve their own mental health. In the present times where physical contact and reassurance is hard to come by the events scheduled in wellbeing week will be welcomed by the student body. Hopefully, this will also alleviate some of the disappointment stemming from the Raisin cancellation.