Survey reveals gaps in mental health support mechanism for students in Kerala

Universities have to set up helplines to handle psycho-social issues faced by students following COVID-19, according to UGC

Mental health issues experienced amidst online education during the pandemic has prompted many students to seek enhanced institutional-level support to tackle their problems.

An informal survey by a group of undergraduate students under the Mahatma Gandhi University carried out among select participants from higher educational institutions in the State revealed gaps in the college-level support mechanism for affected students. Nearly 190 students had responded to the online survey held before the start of the offline exams last week.

At least half of the students pointed out that they need help to deal with their mental health and related issues. Majority had stated that anxiety and stress had affected their studies, it said. Sixty per cent of the students said that they had not yet received any enquiry from their colleges about their mental health.

Fifteen per cent of the students said their teachers had asked about their mental and physical condition. Only a few could seek professional counselling to overcome their anxieties, it said.

Sabu Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, said that necessary directions will be issued to the principals of affiliated colleges to address gaps in institutional-level support for students facing such issues. “We had earlier asked colleges to abide by the suggestions made by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to ensure mental health and well-being of students,” he said.

Prof. Thomas said that the varsity’s School of Behavioural Sciences has initiated programmes to help students overcome mental stress and anxiety in these tough times. “Steps have been taken to provide counselling and support to students in various varsity departments,” he said.

Universities have to set up helplines to handle mental health and psycho-social concerns faced by students following the COVID-19 situation and subsequent lockdown in various regions. It should be regularly monitored and managed by counsellors and faculty members entrusted with the task. There should be regular monitoring of students through interactions and appeals/letters by universities/colleges to help them remain calm and stress-free, according to the UGC.

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