New students experience what is called Freshers’ Week Anxiety when they just get admitted into a new university. It is called Freshers’ week in the UK and is commonly called student orientation in other countries. It is the first introductory one or two weeks before the start of a new semester at a university. This is a chance for students to get to know their peers and roommates, familiarise themselves with the new campus, and get settled into their various accommodation. However, most students find this time challenging, as its the first step in the transition towards adulthood. Its the first time for most students to live on their own, far away from the creature comforts of their home. Foreign students often face this challenges while having to acclimatise to a whole new culture.
Freshers’ Week Anxiety: How Can Universities Help Students Out?
Freshers’ week or student orientation week as it is known to others, can be extremely challenging as anxieties over social issues and academic worries start to build.
For those with existing mental health conditions, it can be an overwhelming time, especially if they have never received any form of therapy in their entire lives. The mental health of young people is in crisis and its getting worse. Fresher’s week plus starting a university education can actually be tough for many. Lots of students are really struggling with this issue.
Young People’s Mental Health
The independent report states that, “the number of first-year students presently arriving at university with a mental health condition is now five times what it was 10 years ago. There has been a trebling in the number of students dropping out of the university as a result of mental health problems”.
Institutions have been addressing the mental health crisis in the UK through various campaigns, however, VICE suggests that there is much to be done.
“Terms like ‘depression’ and ‘impostor syndrome’ provide outlines for these feelings, but they must be coloured in with student voices documenting what it means to encounter these difficulties, and what strategies can help overcome them”.
With the recent increases in mental health awareness, recent polling has indicated that levels of mental distress and illness among students at UK universities is ” alarmingly high”, with half of students reporting thoughts of self-inflicted harm or injuries.
“Servicing young people with awareness campaigns becomes meaningless without real insights into what you physically or mentally encounter when you reach university.”
Rose Bretécher, who suffered from mental health issues, wrote on Grazia Daily, “I was 18 years old when I arrived at Leeds university campus with a cracking noughties mullet and a prospectus full of neuroses: OCD, bulimia, generalised anxiety disorder, depression.
“There were certain boxes that I thought needed ticking in order to be a successful fresher – making new friends, joining societies, going on dates – and they all made me incredibly anxious. In the midst of what had been hyped as the most momentous period of my short existence, the unsayable thing was that I wasn’t happy.
“I didn’t want to have casual chit chats with strangers. I didn’t want my photo to be taken. I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone. Seeing how excited my friends were, it made me believed that I was the only fresher in the whole world, who felt this way”.
If students don’t get their mental health issues checked out, it can lead to alcoholism, chronic depression, or self-harm. There are ways students can reduce these anxieties during Freshers’ week, this include getting more sleep or visiting the counselling centre. The issue is that not all students can afford or handle these issues and take control of their condition. They might just call it homesickness or feel there is something wrong with them. Without their support system there to support them, they may feel isolated and lonely and also refuse to seek help.
Reducing anxieties that start during Freshers’ week
How can universities assist students to address these issues of stress and anxiety during Freshers’ week? Part of the solution could be to be more proactive in offering mental health services as well as to constantly evaluating their own mental health efforts.
According to the independent report, “Universities need to reinforce healthy behaviours in words and also in practice. So while universities might offer advice on nutrition, sleep, physical activity, stress management and coping strategies, they can also render assistance and ensure that students act on this advice.
“This might include things like ensuring that libraries does not open all night to reinforce the need for students to get sufficient sleep. Or making sure there’s always healthy foods in vending machines in order to encourage healthy eating and providing plenty of opportunities on campus for low cost physical activity and exercise”.
Students can also receive psychological evaluation during Freshers’ week or seek mandatory peer support from someone they can turn to if they need help. This can help reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness and boredom and help international students adjust to their new surroundings.