student reflections

at the end of the workshop students are invited to take a moment to reflect and summarise what they’ve thought or felt about our discussions. They can do this using a medium that feels best to them: in a voice note, in reflective writing, through a visual representation or mind map. This part of the website exhibits these reflections.

Students are invited to submit them and can choose if they are named or kept anonymous.

student reflective writing after the workshop:

‘I found the exploration of whether historical accounts of university experiences, challenges, and hardships could potentially be used to support students attending university in the 21st century very interesting and thought-provoking. 

The archival material was very insightful and it was particularly compelling to consider that the expectations and pressures placed on current students have plagued university-goers for decades. Sarah’s own point that these were standards and norms pre-existing the sometimes overly idealised social media world resonated with me too. I feel this is a testament to their power and deep-rootedness. This made me consider the possibility of a kind of intergenerational university pressure, with stories of the ‘right’ kind of university experience being passed down from grandparents, to parents, and so on, adding more meaning and significance as the process snowballs. 

I certainly think that the use of such historical sources should be considered to support current and future university students. There is definitely an element of solidarity and comfort on an individual level in knowing that students have suffered from these struggles for decades before the term ‘snowflake’ was thrown around, even if it is slightly frustrating that this material and these emotional experiences have existed in the historical record for institutions to see and do something about for a significant amount of time.’ – Olivia Papps, University of Sheffield

‘My reflection on today’s session is that it has served to highlight how important research on student mental health is. Understanding students have a long history at struggling mentally at university is personally validating. The knowledge that students have had a very hard time for a very long time is also important as it reminds us that student mental health is an issue that has been overlooked for nearly 100 years. It is my hope that knowledge of the historic struggles of students will empower student activism and encourage students to push for the institutional changes they deserve.’ Anna Edwards, Sheffield University

‘Learning about the history of mental health problems as something almost inherent to the student experience is helpful for making the current and ongoing experiences of students (pandemic notwithstanding) less isolated. This is because although there are numerous support systems in place and areas to connect with those undergoing or having previously undergone such experiences, it can still be very easy to discount all that, and feel in one’s heart of hearts, so to speak, that one’s student experience is unique in its loneliness or somehow different. But placing those feelings in a history of higher education and especially having an active conversation about it makes clear that these are not isolated feelings by ‘unlucky’ individuals, but something endemic to the institution. I see learning about this as helpful for chiefly two reasons; first, it allows students another avenue through which they can connect with others and get a sense of shared emotion with those from the past. Secondly, and more importantly, it focuses on an oft-overlooked part of the essential student experience, and by further and more widely acknowledging this apparent truth, it can allow students and their institutions the opportunity to more adequately respond to the problem.’ – Aubrey Campbell, Swansea University

‘Having been a part of this discussion on the history of mental health in universities I think it is very important for students today to be aware of. While mental health is less stigmatised now than in the past, poor mental health and loneliness have evidently been present in students for decades, whereas I think it can often be seen as some kind of new problem. Emphasising this point could be beneficial to students as it may help to change this idea of what a student, or what student life, must be. It is clear that despite an increase in the number of people enrolled in universities, many students today feel loneliness in a very similar way to the mid to late twentieth century. Centring these ideas could help demonstrate that student life is not all it is made out to be, and could make movements towards normalising a different student experience which has been around just as long as the accepted model.’ – Anonymous student, Swansea University

‘History enables us to understand the concept of our identity, belonging and loneliness and how these impact our mental health. By looking at the past on its own terms, you can understand how to influence the future’, – Sula MacLean, Swansea University

‘Learning about the concerns past students had about mental wellbeing reassures me that and justifies that our feelings are valid. However it highlights we still need to do more to support students today.’ – Eiliaeh Carver, Swansea University

‘I think history offers a valuable insight into the development, or lack thereof, of student mental health, and what should be done to change it. Considering the article suggests that very little has changed, perhaps our perspective and tactics need to change from the focus of the students themselves, to the institutions that are meant to take care of them. Collectively, people need to come together to evaluate what can be done to make university a better place for mental health, and I think history is a good place to start. Perhaps one day our history will show a positive change as a result of what we have learned from generation to generation.’ – Georgia-Lee Allen, Swansea University

‘I enjoyed the talk thoroughly and would happily partake in such again. The topic is one I rarely had discussions of in a general school environment, so it was nice to have a safe environment where we could discuss this important topic.

The most interest aspect I resonated with, was the point of the student body not engaging with the school to create thriving communities on campus. This is a key aspect as it aims to directly tackle the student body engagement – rather than blame the universities as the usual scapegoat for lack of activity. 

Quite interestingly, the point about off-campus students having a lost sense of belonging is truer than ever. While I live on campus, the physical distinctions between off-campus students act as an invisible barrier that doesn’t allow consistent social networking. Among my few friends who are off campus, they constantly label themselves ‘outcasts’, even though there are more commuters than ever this year of university. 

Something I would like to gain an insight into, is when Korman suggested ‘Warwick needs a real community’. But what defines a ‘real’ community? Is it one where students engage in extra-circular activities, or is one where teachers are able to bridge the gap of consciousness to support students? 

In my view, a ‘real community’ should not be the focus. This purely because I don’t think there is such a thing, or there cannot be in an environment where there are international students, remote students, local students all mixed together into a mini society called ‘university’. There cannot possibly be a ‘real’ version of community with so many varied cultural and social attitudes.’ – Tolu Tinubu, student at QMUL