‘I’m In’ campaign, Leeds City College
© Philip Openshaw |

As part of the ‘I’m In’ campaign, Leeds City College have put in place a number of stimulating activities and resources to provide mental health support to students and staff during the COVID-19 lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in numerous changes to daily life. Schools have been closed, travel has been suspended and concerts and sporting events have been cancelled or postponed.

One thing that this epidemic has impacted on in some cases, is people’s mental health and wellbeing. In our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives, our usual ways of seeing family, friends or just familiar faces have had to be put on hold and has meant that people have been experiencing anxiety, loneliness or depression.

According to a recent study conducted in April by The Mental Health Foundation, one in four adults (24%) said they had feelings of loneliness in the “previous two weeks”. When the same question was asked shortly before lockdown, just one in ten people (10%) said they had these feelings. In a matter of weeks, social distancing left millions more people in the UK feeling isolated and having to find creative ways of getting used to the ‘new normal’.

The study also revealed that young people aged 18 to 24 were most likely to experience loneliness since the lockdown began. Before lockdown, one in six (16%) said they felt lonely. With lockdown restrictions in place, young people are almost three times more likely to have experienced loneliness, with almost half feeling this way.

Ways in which Leeds City College has made students’ lockdown experiences fun

Worries about finances, health, loneliness and concerns about loved ones has led to a number of natural responses to life’s events in recent weeks, and as part of making sure that staff and students would receive adequate support, Leeds City College put in place a number of stimulating activities and resources that have given them the opportunity to get involved and add variety to their day-to-day lives while in lockdown.

The ‘I’m In’ campaign, is part of a wider initiative that aims to make the experiences of staff and students more rewarding. Launched in 2018, ‘I’m In’ encompasses the values and behaviours of staff and students, to foster positive change and an inclusive environment for all.

While many people are experiencing heightened anxiety as they cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no one experiencing it more than those who may have an existing mental health condition. As a result, the college wanted to ensure that students would get all the support they need with the help of the Student Life Team.

The team have created an interactive programme of weekly activities to engage all students online, allowing them to interconnect with other students in a variety of ways, including online societies, student parliament, SU elections, health and fitness and careers guidance. This has so far supported many students with getting involved with activities outside of their course work and also helped stimulate them mentally.

Mental health awareness week

As part of mental health awareness week, the Student Life team also organised 60-minute interactive sessions on ‘kindness’, via Google Hangout sessions that allowed staff and students to share random acts of kindness and get involved in different activities that made them feel part of a community.

Although many students have been physically separated, they have found ways to remain socially and mentally connected. In keeping with the ‘I’m In’ ethos, Leeds City College’s School of Creative Arts in conjunction with The Paper Birds Theatre Company, commissioned 32 Level 3 acting students in creating a performance piece addressing online safety.

The increase of internet usage amongst teenagers has rapidly risen due to the development of social media platforms and a significant amount of young people are being exposed to challenging situations. The performance, which illustrated how students and staff have adapted to remote learning, aimed to educate young people on how to stay safe online and report any concerns that may arise.

Originally the project was set to tour across Leeds secondary schools in May. However, due to the crisis, staff and students adapted and created the project whilst in lockdown.

Although the lockdown has had negative effects on some people, with lines between work and home life blurred, it has also created a number of positive experiences for others and shown that fun activities can take place virtually and interaction can go beyond the outdoors.

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