Leeds University YouTube star Lydia Violeta says students feel injustice over online learning and mental health damage
Leeds Uni of YouTuber Lydia Violeta has spoken out about the effects of the pandemic on Leeds students’ mental health.
Lydia is a 19-year-old ‘StudyTuber’ with more than 200,000 subscribers who makes videos about her life as a second-year Business Management student at Leeds University.
The Yorkshire Evening Post interviewed her about the difficulties facing students during the current lockdown, among reports students are dissatisfied with online university and struggling with their mental health.
Lydia said months of lockdowns and online university are impacting students’ mental health, despite the university taking steps to extend deadlines and cancel rent for those not in accommodation. Many are calling for a reduction in tuition fees.
Lydia said: “There’s definitely a resounding feeling of injustice amongst students.
“Online university is not the same academic experience at all.
“In my first year, lecturers said how watching online recordings wasn’t sufficient if we wanted to succeed.
“Now it’s all we have.”
Students are finding that online learning is not only academically dissatisfying, but isolating.
When asked if her own mental health had been affected, Lydia said: “One hundred percent.
“I did a video at the end of November talking about how online university had personally impacted my mental health, and you only need to read the comments to see most students are in completely the same boat.
“Despite the fact we’re staying in our bedrooms most of the day, it’s exhausting to learn this way.
“There seems to be no compensation in terms of workload; if anything, it feels as though we’re expected to do more, because ‘we don’t have as much to do.’
“When your bedroom is where you work, relax and sleep, it feels like there’s no break or escape.”
With the third national lockdown ruling out any extracurricular activities and shops and nightlife remaining closed, the hallmarks of the traditional student experience seem almost non-existent.
Lydia said the lack of social interaction had completely changed the university experience.
She said: “There’s nothing to look forward to. No nights out, no pub visits, no days out.”
In spite of this, she stressed she is incredibly grateful to be receiving an education: “I know I’m in a very privileged and fortunate position.”
When asked what her top tip was for struggling students to stay motivated, Lydia said:
“I made the mistake last term of accidentally burning myself out.
“When your whole life takes place in pretty much one room, it’s incredibly easy to overwork yourself.
“So my top piece of advice is to make sure to take lots of breaks, and give yourself time to rest.
“Going for an hour’s walk during a study break has helped my mental health massively.”
Sophia Hartley, Welfare Officer at Leeds University Union said social isolation and the mental health ramifications of remote study were the biggest welfare issues being raised by students.
She said it can be difficult for students to establish a routine, especially if lectures are pre-recorded and can be watched at any time.
She said: “The biggest challenge is finding reasons to leave the house and create a healthy work-life balance.
“This is amplified by the fact many student houses are unsuitable to be a full-time workspace.
“In some cases, bedrooms may be in the basement of houses with limited natural lighting.
“When you combine these factors it can lead to a dangerous mental space for low motivation, build-up of anxiety with an overload of information, and a feeling of being disconnected from society.”
She added students were experiencing financial difficulties which increased the strain on their mental health, with growing concern about the number of temporary jobs on offer and entering the job market after graduation.
Tim Gibbs, from the public services analysis team at the ONS, said recent data shows a decrease in students’ average life satisfaction scores since the start of the academic year, with almost two-thirds reporting a worsening of their mental health and wellbeing.
He said: “These numbers are not surprising considering the new lockdown measures in place.”
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS) said it is crucial universities and colleges continue to put robust systems of mental health and pastoral support in place to help all students with difficulties they may face.
A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: “Universities have spent significant amounts on providing mental health and wellbeing support, including online counselling and developing new services to identify those in difficulty and to meet new needs.
“Universities will continue to work hard to provide the best possible support for students, however they are seeing significant increases in demand for university-funded support services, which were already plugging the gaps resulting from the lack of NHS resources and funding.”