It is also advised students engage in new forms of socialisation such as Zoom calls and chat forums
While the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on everyone’s lives, it seems to have had a particularly negative effect on third level students as they cope with another semester of uncertainty.
The lockdown measures caused feelings of isolation as a semester was cut short to return home.
Now, many students are opting to take their studies from home once more which has led to the usual social engagement a young person would usually enjoy come to a sudden stall.
For those feeling the effects of the pandemic acutely, teen mental health charities have had to act quickly to provide support during this challenging time.
One such charity is Jigsaw, Ireland’s National Centre for Youth Mental Health for young people ranging from the ages of twelve to twenty-five.
“We’ve seen a big increase in demand for services across the board. When the lockdown occurred, we saw a huge increase in people looking to access our online supports,” said Jen Trzeciak, Jigsaw’s eMental Health Manager.
The charity witnessed a 50% increase in the number of referrals across August alone.
Jen states that many of the new referrals are directly due to the impacts of the pandemic on young people’s daily lives.
Following the decision of the Government in late September to move all third level institutions under a Level Three framework, many young people turned down their offers of accommodation to stay at home, which has caused feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“We are seeing a lot of anxieties young people express about getting back to social situations due to not practicing the skills that they would have,” said Jen.
Other calls for support have arisen from those experiencing conflict at home, as the college term would usually provide an opportunity to get away from issues they are now expected to balance both studying with the problems within their household.
Some students have spoken to the charity about their own worries of missing out on the social aspect of college, with all clubs and societies currently suspended from in person meetings.
The service has also heard from recent graduates who are struggling to make the leap into the world of work in such uncertain times.
Jigsaw quickly adapted to the new influx of students by introducing telehelp services involving video and phone based sessions, alongside their traditional face to face services.
The charity has also introduced a live chat service which is text based support.
Jen advised that all students can help their own mental health through following steps to cope with the new challenges lockdown has presented them.
“What’s really important is to be aware of what students are telling themselves in their internal dialogue,” says Jen.
“If they are telling themselves everyone else is coping really well, those comparisons are not helpful. We need to become aware of what we are telling ourselves.”
It is also advised students engage in new forms of socialisation such as Zoom calls and chat forums established to replace traditional forms of meeting friends.
Jen also advises that students make contact with friends and family every day to prevent feeling further isolated.
Students are advised to practice their own self-care alongside their studies to ensure their workload does not overshadow their personal needs. Jen advises to practice activities which benefit both the mind and body to prevent becoming overwhelmed with the college workload.
It can also be of great benefit to know of the support available to students, ranging from their college’s support to charities such as Jigsaw to help any individual suffering from bad mental health.
“There’s so much out there about what’s going wrong, it’s really important to look at what we can do about it,” said Jen. “We can’t change the pandemic or the potential lockdowns but it is really important people know how to support their own mental health.”
Jigsaw is the National Centre for Youth Mental Health and provides a listening ear alongside expert advice and support for young people. For more information on the services mentioned, visit Jigsaw.ie.
Aislinn Kelly is a journalism student from Tipperary who is studying at University of Limerick
What is Jigsaw?
Jigsaw is Ireland’s leading youth mental charity and is committed to advancing young people’s mental health and to developing supportive communities by providing a range of primary care services and supports across the Republic of Ireland.
With the support of a range of public and private funders, we deliver a variety of free primary care mental health services and supports for young people and adults including:
- delivering free, one-to-one, primary care therapeutic sessions with young people (aged 12-25)
- offering community-based programmes aimed at better informing, supporting, educating and empowering young people and those around them, in places where they live, learn, work and play
- undertaking pioneering research and robust evaluation leading to transformative evidence
- providing a wide range of eMental Health supports through jigsawonline.ie
rolling out a comprehensive secondary schools programme (One Good School™) aimed at supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people by developing a shared responsibility for mental health across the whole school community.
Jigsaw provides direct services in 12 communities around Ireland.
www.jigsaw.ie for more information