More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

More than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup 2022

black and white football net
Laoise Darragh
18th May 2021
 
 

 

The fact that migrants are being exploited in the building of the Qatar World Cup 2022 is not a new discovery. However, a recent report by the Guardian has revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar during the construction of Qatar World Cup infrastructure including stadiums, an airport, roads, public transport, hotels and an entire new city. The majority of these workers came to Qatar from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  

 

The Guardian report unveiled that an average of 12 migrant workers have died each week since 2010. The official cause of death in most cases was said to be “natural causes”.  Based on data obtained by the Guardian, 69% of deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers were categorised as natural. Among Indian migrants, this increases to 80%. Despite the fact that almost none of these workers had prior underlying health conditions, the Qatari Government stated that “The mortality rate among these communities is within the expected range for the size and demographics of the population. However, every lost life is a tragedy, and no effort is spared in trying to prevent every death in our country.” 

 

As well as revealing the shocking statistics of the deaths of these workers, the Guardian report described a number of case studies of individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by the devastating data coming from Qatar. The family of Ghal Singh Rai from Nepal paid over €1,000 in recruitment fees for his job as a cleaner in a camp for workers building one of the stadiums. He took his own life less than a week after his arrival to Qatar. Ghal’s father had sensed that something was wrong and told his son to come home if he could not handle the stress and conditions of the job. Another worker, Mohammad Shahid Miah from Bangladesh, was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came into contact with exposed electricity cables. The family of Indian worker Madhu Bollapally cannot comprehend how the healthy 43-year old died of “natural causes” while working in Qatar. He had already passed away when he was found by his roommate lying on their dorm room floor. His family, including a 13 year old son, received around €1,300 in compensation and his salary was not paid. 

 

In an NPR Podcast Interview, the journalist who conducted the Guardian report, Pete Pattisson, explained that these figures do not include those who are injured or collapse on construction sites and died after they are taken off-site or those who die in road traffic accidents on the way to or from work in a company bus. He also explained that autopsies are very rare, and that although the long hours and extreme heat play a role in the high number of deaths, the picture is incomplete and there is more at play here. Often the workers live in terrible conditions in camps far away from work, with 8-12 people sharing a room. Pattisson described the World Cup as a “catalyst” for the history of abuse of migrant workers in the Middle East.  

 

Although there have been reformations of labour laws in Qatar that mean workers no longer need permission from their employer if they want to change jobs, the Shura council of Qatar have put forward a number of recommendations that would remove this and other reformations that have been put in place. In a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Amnesty International calls for FIFA to use their influence on the Qatari government to ensure that all of the proposed labour reforms are fulfilled. A spokesperson for Amnesty stated that FIFA “must act now to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is a tournament to be proud of, and not one tainted by labour abuses.” The European Parliament has questioned Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on his views surrounding the Guardian report, and what actions will be taken surrounding the report.  

 

“The company, which supplied grass for the World Cup in Germany (2006), the European Championship in Switzerland (2008) and the European Championship in France (2016), withdrew their services due to the inhumane conditions and human rights violations faced by migrant workers in Qatar.”

Dutch Company ‘Hendriks Graszoden’ was set to supply grass sod for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  A spokesperson for the company explained that their decision to withdraw is “certainly a loss for the company. But sometimes you have to make a decision on ethical grounds. ”  

 

Football players around the world have stood in protest of the human rights violations evident in Qatar. Norway, Germany and Netherlands footballers have protested Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers. Norweigan players wore t-shirts stating “HUMAN RIGHTS” and “On and off the pitch”. The Netherlands team wore t-shirts with the words “Football supports change” written on them. German players wore black t-shirts with a letter each spelling out “HUMAN RIGHTS”. However, officials from its football association stated that it was opposed to boycotting the World Cup. Belgium manager Roberto Martínez  has also stated that boycotting the World Cup would be a “big mistake”. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have been urged by Amnesty International Ireland and Bohemian F.C. to take a stance and put pressure on FIFA to use its position to protect migrant workers.  

 

Despite these protests and calls for reform, FIFA have not spoken up about this issue and migrant workers continue to be exploited and killed in preparation for the Qatar World Cup 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Shapelined on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

OPINION + WOMEN
Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war
Women and the military representation
parisa
Aoife Burke
4th October 2020
In recent years, the relationship between women and the military has become topical in countries such as the UK. In 2018 all positions in the British Army became open to women for the first time, and since then the army has been using increasingly feminist rhetoric in their PR and recruitment campaigns. However, during the same period, government reports and individual testimonies have shed light on the level of discrimination, abuse, and sexual harassment experienced by women in the British armed forces. These issues have fuelled important discussions on the compatibility of feminism and the military – or lack thereof. These discussions have been largely focused on the experiences of female soldiers, questioning whether army service can be empowering to women on an individual level. However, the stories of female civilians (the group that has historically been most affected by war) have been consistently left out of the discourse. Women who have witnessed the reality of imperialist military intervention and shouldered the true cost of war should be at the forefront in discussions about gender and the army. Instead, both historically and in the present day, female civilians in conflict have had their voices spoken over and their stories twisted and misused, for the benefit of imperialist powers.

 

As we can see in the British Army’s current PR campaign, particularly in their podcast episode with Laura Whitmore, feminism is being appropriated in order to paint military service as empowering to women. Another, perhaps even more dangerous way in which feminism has been misused is in the portrayal of Western military interventions as liberatory to civilian women. Both of these narratives are used to expand the military reach and both erase the lived experiences of women who have suffered at the hands of militarism. The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.

 

Historically, Britain and other European powers have attacked the rights and undermined the autonomy of women in colonised countries. In the process of colonisation, the social, legal, and economic structures of patriarchy were often forced upon native societies. For instance, in pre-colonial Canada, indigenous society generally valued women, and indigenous women often held leadership and decision-making roles. Furthermore, because of strong kinship systems, women were not economically dependent on men. However, colonial settlers ignored the position of women in indigenous culture, refusing to engage with female spokespersons and enforcing the patriarchal norms that had been well-established in Europe by that time. The lasting impact of patriarchal colonialism can still be seen in Canada today, where indigenous women face the highest rates of violence, poverty, and poor health.

 

“The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth.”

The colonisation of Africa also saw the European ideals of patriarchy imposed on native women. The arrival of cash crops and the exclusion of women from the marketplace meant that African women generally lost power and economic independence during the colonial period. Because colonial authorities relied on the testimony of men to establish customary laws, the legal systems that developed under colonialism disadvantaged women. Furthermore, the pre-colonial political activity of women was largely disregarded and colonial agents worked exclusively with men in establishing political offices. For instance, in many parts of West Africa, associations run by and for women had deciding authority in disputes related to markets and agriculture. However, because these institutions were completely disregarded by European colonisers, they tended to lose power after the late 19th century. Overall, Britain, alongside other imperialist powers, has a long history of reversing the rights and freedoms of civilian women in colonised countries.

 

Despite this reality, the subject of women’s rights was used to defend British imperialism. This phenomenon relied on the portrayal of women in the Global South as victims, who need to be saved from their own culture by “civilised” Westerners. This paternalistic and racist narrative has been used time and time again to justify devastating wars and exploitative invasions, particularly in Islamic countries. As scholar Leila Ahmed discusses in her book Women and Gender in Islam, the late 19th-century British coloniser Lord Cromer used the veiling of women in Islam as evidence of the inferiority of Islamic civilisations, and ultimately as justification for the colonisation of Egypt. Lord Cromer actively opposed women’s suffrage in Britain and hindered the progression of women’s liberation in Egypt – yet none of this stopped him from using women’s rights as a pretext for his colonial endeavours. Disturbingly, a similar pattern is still playing out in the 21st century.

 

Since the early 2000s, Britain and the United States have used “feminist” rhetoric to help justify imperialist military invasions in the Middle East. In 2001, George Bush pushed the idea that war in Afghanistan would free “women of cover ” – reverting to the same patronizing portrayal of Muslim women that was used to defend British colonialism over a century prior. Concerningly, women were also complicit in promoting this storyline, with both Laura Bush and Cherie Blair being wheeled out to speak on the plight of Afghan women in the lead up to war – as though Western military invasions and bombing raids would somehow help liberate them. Yet in 2011, ten years into the war, Afghanistan was named the “most dangerous place in the world to be a woman”, with ongoing conflict and NATO airstrikes among the primary reasons cited. In a similar fashion, the narrative of rescuing women was used to legitimise the Iraq war. Bush repeatedly made vague, non-committal statements about women’s rights in the lead-up to the invasion. “Respect for women can … triumph in the Middle East and beyond”, he said in a speech to the UN in 2002 in which he urged action on Iraq. While Iraqi women were granted some benefits on paper during the war period, in reality, they were disproportionately harmed by conflict and left with less security and economic autonomy than before. The vast suffering of female civilians at the hands of British and U.S. military action highlights the utter emptiness of feminist language in this context.

 

George W. Bush gives a speech on war in the Middle East, focusing on the rights of women (videocafeblog, 2008)
The trend of world leaders appropriating feminism to sell militarism ultimately contributes to public ignorance about what war really means for women. According to the United Nations, war and conflict exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and leave women at a heightened risk of human rights violations. During conflict, women and girls are increasingly targeted through the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war. In late 2019, the British government and army were accused of covering up war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including sexual abuse. As well as a serious increase in the risk of gender-based violence, women are also disproportionately impacted by unstable access to essential services. Access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, can often be disrupted during conflict, leaving women and girls at risk of unplanned pregnancy, maternal mortality and STI’s. Furthermore, due to additional domestic responsibilities and fear of targeted attacks, girls’ right to education is disproportionately threatened during war. Continued instability in post-conflict periods means that the threats posed to women’s rights can last long after war officially ends. These issues, and the immense suffering they cause, are too often swept under the rug in discussions about gender and the military.

 

In conclusion, despite the empty words of political leaders and the vague sentiments of military PR campaigns, war poses a threat to women’s rights throughout the world. The suffering of civilians has always been inherent in the military action of countries such as Britain and the U.S., and women have shouldered the brunt of this injustice. The use of feminist rhetoric in a pro-war context is not only hypocritical but serves to erase the experiences of civilian women in war, including those who have lost their lives.

 

Stay tuned for episode 3 of this series which will explore whether or not gender representation in the military actually promotes equality.

 

 

 

Featured photo by USA Today

 

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context

Opinion
Accepting and Adapting: A Note on COVID-19 Context
berlin bar dublin wash your hands covid-19 2
olivia moore
Olivia Moore
3rd September 2020
 

2020 so far has been an absolute whirlwind – and not the good, refreshing, exciting kind. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown created a completely foreign world for people all over the globe, in which the daily practices and social norms we took so much for granted were completely demolishedWhen a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch. 

 

This time last year, little did we think we would be in position of worldwide quarantine, rendered helpless at the mercy of a deadly virus. Even more socould we ever have pictured all that would go along with something that affects us and our lives to this scale 

 

This time last year, I would not have believed the fact that I would silently judge people for not wearing a facemask indoors in public.  

 

I would have thought it ridiculous that we all frequently wait patiently for forty minutes in a spaced-out queue right through the shopping centre just to get into Tesco to do our weekly shop, standing surrounded by deserted clothes shops and restaurants. 

 

I would have been shocked if I found out that, at different points in the lockdown, we could only travel 2 kilometres and 5 kilometres from our own houses, and only eventually be able to venture outside of our own county towards the end of the summer – and adhered to these rules. 

 

I would have been surprised (and probably delighted – praise the leg room!) if you mentioned that we were legally only allowed to sit one-per-row on buses and trains.  

 

When a system override of this magnitude happens, there is not much left to do but build again from scratch.”

I would never have thought I would be rolling my eyes at people choosing to go on or book leisure holidays abroad. 

 

I would find it utterly unthinkable that schools and colleges could take a six-month hiatus, or if I found out that I would matter-of-factly finish my final exams from my bed at 10pm. 

 

This time last year, I would have laughed if you told me that the European Commissioner was in national disgrace and was forced to resign after “merely” attending a Golf Society dinner along with 80 people in Galway. 

 

And yet, all these rules and all these instances we have just taken in our stride. Although it was certainly a shock to the system at the beginning, we got on with it. Now, most of us barely bat an eyelid; we keep an eye on the precautions and follow the rules, as if we have always lived like this. Throughout the coronavirus, the pandemic, and global quarantine, humans have proved themselves to be as flexible and adaptable as ever. A new world has been forced upon us – but we have created the new norms to go with it.  

 

 

Featured photo by William Murphy

 

The misogynistic reality of media interviews

The misogynistic reality of media interviews

The misogynic reality of media interviews

camera set up for interview
Emily Murphy

17th May 2021

 
 

From being asked about underwear and sexual relationships, to breasts, cosmetics and diet, it seems that being subjected to inappropriate questions is a standard procedure for women in the public eye. From the hills of Hollywood to the chambers of Parliament, misogyny rears its ugly head in the form of a media who incessantly seem to value the achievements of women based upon their physical appearance, their relationship status and their ability to balance family and professional life. 

 

For years, these professional, uninformed and outright sexist questions and remarks directed towards predominantly female interviewees were seen as the norm. All anyone has to do is watch the recent Britney Spears documentary Framing Britney Spears to get a grasp of the issue at hand. There were many shocking revelations made in the documentary with regards to the blatant misogyny Britney, and many other young female celebrities were, and still are, subjected to. Arguably the most disturbing moment was an interview clip with Dutch television personality Ivo Niehe and a then 17-year-old Britney Spears. During the interview, Spears was asked by Niehe to discuss her breasts because, as he informed the young teen, her breasts are something that “everyone is talking about”. Sexualised and objectified by a 52-year-old man, Spears’ monumental achievements and successes were diminished in that moment in favour of a wildly inappropriate conversation about her physical features.

 

In the wake of the Britney Spears documentary, interviews with various talk show hosts have resurfaced, demonstrating that sexism and double-standards during interviews is not an experience unique to Spears, nor is it limited to the early nineties. Several clips from David Letterman’s show The Late Show went viral and sparked fury amongst viewers. Perhaps most shocking was an interview Letterman had with Lindsay Lohan in 2013. Throughout the interview, Letterman made several attempts to pry into Lohan’s personal life, persistently prodding her about her journey with rehab and her “wild lifestyle”. Despite Lohan’s clear discomfort, Letterman continues to encroach upon intimate details of the actors’ life. While she remains calm and the two keep things relatively light-hearted, it is clear that by the end of the interview the relentless intrusion brings Lohan close to tears. But hey, all in the name of good TV, right?

 

The most alarming aspect of these interviews is that at the time, Letterman, and so many others who have done the same, escaped any form of accountability for their actions. He was not publicly criticised for his behaviour or glaring sexist comments and assumptions.

 

 

“Instead, Letterman was commended for his journalistic skills and for getting the “inside scoop” on Lohan’s personal life. No repercussions. No consequences. Just praise at the expense of a woman’s comfort.”

 
 

Scarlett Johansson is someone who has been at the receiving end of sexist interview questions time and time again, as she gets asked routinely about her attire, diet and makeup tips. In a press interview for an Avengers movie, Johansson’s co-star Robert Downey Jnr. is seen being asked a deep and thought-provoking question about his character’s development over the course of several movies and then, almost comically, Scarlett is asked immediately afterwards how she “got in shape” for her role. Most shocking perhaps is when Johansson was asked whether she wore underwear under her Black Widow costume for the Avengers movies. The same interviewer also made uncomfortable comments towards Anne Hathaway about how “form-fitting” her costume was for her role in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. The unsettling patterns of these interviews date back to as early as 1975 when Helen Mirren was asked if her “physical attributes” hinder her in her “pursuit of being a successful actress,” as interviewer Michael Parkinson states that having large breasts may “detract” from her performance. While today it is rare to directly hear comments like these thrown around, the truth of the matter is that these remarks have simply evolved to suit the times. As previously demonstrated, they may not be as explicit, but the thinking behind them reminds largely the same.   

 

Breaking away from the bubble of Hollywood, it seems that even the political realm could not escape sexism’s suffocating grasp. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has shown exceptional leadership since coming into office in 2017, in handling New Zealand’s deadliest terrorist attack which took the lives of 51 people, navigating a lethal volcanic eruption, dealing decisively with the COVID-19 pandemic, all while securing a landslide victory to guarantee her a longer term in office. Yet, it appears that gender-fuelled interview questions show no mercy, not even to New Zealand’s youngest ever prime minister. Only seven hours into her job, Ardern appeared on TV show The Project and was asked by interviewer Jesse Mulligans about her plans to have children. Less than a day later, the Prime Minister appeared on a different talk show where host Mark Richardson stated that the country has a right to know Ardern’s plans for having a family and taking maternity leave. 

 

“In the space of twentyfour hours, despite her success and historical achievement, Jacinda Ardern was reminded by two men that according to society’s standards, she was first and foremost a baby-maker and that her bodily autonomy was up for grabs.”

To some, the nature of these questions on the surface level may seem harmless – some throwaway remarks that do not run much deeper than a ‘bit of fun’. But this is a pitiful excuse used to cower under the glass ceiling of systemic sexism. The nature of the questions posed in these interviews perpetuate archaic, harmful attitudes towards women while simultaneously informing wider society that it is normal to objectify, sexualise and belittle women and their work in this way. Behind these questions are misogynistic assumptions of women’s roles in society and the hierarchy of their values. They reinforce the damaging idea that women should look a certain way or be a certain size, that they owe it to the public to discuss their private and personal matters. That somehow, they are public property.  

 

Female celebrities and politicians are not puppets that can be strung along by the mainstream media to perform in order to appease their viewership with superficial promises of scandal, gossip and personal life divulgence. They are real women, real people who are hard-working, committed and successful in what they do. The least they deserve is to be treated with human decency and acknowledged for their achievements. The fact that it took Britney Spears’ documentary being released to finally shed some well-needed light on the subject proves how deeply ingrained harmful gender assumptions and stereotypes are in society’s subconscious. While we may have succeeded in cracking the protective shell of these gender norms, we still need to learn how to shatter it.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose + Programme Assistant Rachel

 

 

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

Kids in cages: Biden’s end to his predecessor’s policies causes surge in cross-border migration

US Mexican border
Emily Murphy

13th May 2021

 
 

 

“Kids in cages” is a phrase we are all unfortunately accustomed to hearing. The migrant crisis and border policies dominated Donald Trump’s presidency, and images of children crowded into tiny, wired confines have since been associated with the former administration. Throughout the past four years and the 2020 campaign, many, including Joe Biden, were incredibly vocal regarding their disapproval, calling for the closure of the facilities and the reunification of migrant families. Only a few months into his term, Biden has made the controversial decision to reopen many of the centers, citing COVID-19 and social distancing as the justification. The President has been accused of using the current virus as an opportunity to continue the policies he helped instigate under the Obama administration; but is this really the case or is Biden just cleaning up the mess that Trump left behind?  

 

According to the United States Border Patrol, the spring of 2014 saw an unprecedented rise in the numbers of Central Americans crossing into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. When they turned themselves over to U.S. agents, many cited poverty, violence, and unemployment as the reasons for making the journey. It was not uncommon for many groups to include teenagers and children as people had been told by smugglers that having children present when crossing the border typically assured the avoidance of deportation and lengthy detention. At the time, those claims were accurate. By May of the same year, more than 4,000 people were arriving daily and Border Patrol was completely overwhelmed. The holding cells quickly filled and agents began using “sally port”, the areas outside the stations, as holding pens. At this point, it was standard to see women and babies left on concrete floors, in 95-plus degree heat (35-degrees Celsius) for several hours at a time. 

 

When the conditions at the McAllen station became public, the Obama administration quickly began expanding its capacity, building infrastructure to handle single adult men only.  In July 2014, the new “Central Processing Center” (CPC) opened. It was a large, air-conditioned warehouse with chain-link fencing partitions to maximize and designate space. The center quickly became known as “la perrera” or “the dog kennel” due to the industrial, livestock nature of the operation. The facility was criticized at the time, but when Trump instigated his zero-tolerance policy in 2018, there was an international outcry. The policy ended after only six weeks. When Trump declared that families would no longer be separated, smugglers began ensuring people that children were a passport to the U.S, and a new wave began.

 

“On 22 March 2021, Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar released images of a migrant facility in Donna. Some of these images included children sleeping on the floor under foil blankets. Concerns have been raised about the conditions of the centre, with activists suggesting that overcrowding and a lack of social distancing, as well as poor access to adequate food or soap supplies were major issues.”

Currently, the Donna facility is housing 1,000 people, and this follows a large increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border in the months since Biden has taken office. So far journalists have not been permitted to enter the facilities as they were during the Trump administration, however, lawyers representing the children, who have entered the facilities have described them as “cramped”. According to Cueller, migrants are supposed to be separated into ‘pods’ of 260 people, yet one of the pods in the Donna facility contained over 400 unaccompanied male minors. Cueller said that these children needed to be quickly moved from the facility into care and away from the “terrible conditions”. 

 

The surge in the number of migrants trying to cross the border has been blamed on Biden’s decision to end the policies put in place by his predecessor. Critics have said that this decision has only invited people to make the treacherous journey. Representative John Katko, R-NY, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has said Biden’s rollback of policies that were working have “encouraged cartels to exploit the southern border”, and that the number of people being trafficked into America through Texas is only growing. While migrants have been turned away at the border due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is U.S. policy to take any unaccompanied minors into custody. These minors are to be placed in a migrant facility for a maximum of three days before being placed with a sponsor family, however, due to delays in the system, many children are spending significantly longer waiting for a placement. 

 

Many of the Trump-era facilities have been reopened at 100% capacity under the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advice, despite ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus disease, and the CDCs own recommendations that people remain two meters apart to reduce the spread of infections. As of 22 April, according to the New York Times, shelters for migrant children were 13 days away from maximum capacity. Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, has said that holding the children in the border camps is “in our view, the right choice to make”, the alternative being to send them back. The U.S. government has said that it wants to work with the governments of Mexico and Guatemala to address the poverty, violence, and other root causes of the mass migration. 

 

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has blamed the conditions on the “mess and wreck” inherited from the former Trump administration, saying that the conditions are “better than what we saw in 2019”. It seems that this attempt to place blame has not shifted the attention of the general public, with activists continuing to lobby President Biden, calling for more action and a better response before the situation becomes any worse.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Humanitarian Editor Amyrose 

 

 

COVID-19, Mental Health and the ‘Blame Game’

COVID-19, Mental Health and the ‘Blame Game’

PODCASTS

COVID-19, Mental Health and the ‘Blame Game’

"no one is illegal"

12th May 2021

 

 

Listen to the second episode of Shauna + Orla’s series ‘COVID-19, Mental Health and the ‘Blame Game’ on the following platforms:

iTunes

Spotify

Google Podcasts

Anchor

Castbox

Breaker

Overcast

Radio Republic

 

 
 
The following is the transcription from Shauna + Orla’s episode “COVID-19, Mental Health and the ‘Blame Game'”
 

 

Shauna: [00:00:01] Welcome to the STAND Student podcast, where we dive into important social, political, economic and environmental issues at home and around the world.

 

Orla: [00:00:08] STAND is an initiative for third level students and recent graduates across Ireland supported by Irish Aid.

 

Shauna: [00:00:15] My name is Shauna.

 

Orla: [00:00:16] And my name is Orla. And this episode is all about students’ mental health.

 

Shauna: [00:00:22] So, yes, today we’re going to talk about the mental health specifically, I guess, students, because that’s where we’re coming from. And also we thought we would start off by talking about students in the pandemic.

 

Orla: [00:00:35] But I definitely, I definitely feel like we’ve drawn the short straw in this whole situation. And I don’t know if that’s me feeling sorry for myself or

 

Shauna: [00:00:44] Victimizing yourself or is it actually just the, I mean, I think I saw a title so long ago now what it was saying, describing students as the scapegoats of the Irish pandemic. And that has to be said, students definitely have involved themselves in a lot of things, you know, a lot of things that maybe didn’t help out the rest of the country, but so did a lot of people. So did a lot of age groups. So did a lot of different types of people.

 

Orla: [00:01:15] Yeah, definitely. Like even I seen, when I was working, we have kind of a work Facebook thing and it basically was praising us all for getting the numbers down and how well we are doing at work. And it came up and it just made me so angry because it was like the rise in cases that came in September when all the college students moved back to Galway. And I was like, I literally don’t leave my house.

 

Shauna: [00:01:42] Yeah, that’s, that’s another thing. It’s they’ve forgotten, in all the narrative, all this they’ve forgotten about the students that have stuck by it and the young people, many of those students, just the young people in general that have stuck by it, but yet are still blamed.

 

Orla: [00:01:57] At the start, there was this whole rhetoric of togetherness. And as we’ve progressed within the pandemic, you know, stories of students have definitely pinned students against the rest of the country. And they always said that they couldn’t solve this unless there was unity.

 

Shauna: [00:02:12] I mean, I can understand maybe in journalism and when newspapers are looking for the catchy new thing, you know, in every crisis, someone has to be blamed and someone always is. But I think I remember actually when we had an incident with students and I remember the few days after that going to Tesco or whatever I was doing. And people would look at you like you were there, like they had pictures of you. Me. Yeah. Knew that I would. I avoided it at all costs again. Because you were a student, I don’t know, looking like a student. People immediately thought you were causing the trouble or whatever it was. And then all the blaming and shaming of students, they never, ever mention that students are the ones packing your bags with the like Tesco students are the ones, you know, working. And what these students are the ones doing all these jobs that run throughout the pandemic. When everything else was closed, these businesses were open and no one was saying, oh, well, don’t tell the young people there. No one was ever getting credit there.

 

Orla : [00:03:23] And I definitely think it’s negatively impacted students mental health. I think we’ve had a hard enough year where you are in the prime of your life and you’re so used to seeing so many people and all got taken away. And then we spend three grand on college where we’re sitting in our bedrooms and which we’re paying six hundred euros a month for. I definitely think that the whole scapegoating thing is trying to justify the whole spread of the pandemic, but it’s going to create a different health issue in the long run if needed.

 

Shauna: [00:03:58] Yeah, I think the, you know, the lockdown’s are necessary. I understand. But going in and out of lockdown, I think it’s been like the most detrimental thing to people’s mental health. I think that it’s just like wrecked people’s, like hope, because every time we’ve come out of it, we just go right back in and everyone forgets, especially third level, it’s like college students. People have forgotten about them, like people have just decided, not mentioned once, not mentioned once on the news, unless doing something bad.

 

Orla: [00:04:24]  Exactly. And there’s been no help. There was no event leading up to college. We didn’t know whether we should move in or not. You know, we all did think that we would get some on campus time.

 

Shauna: [00:04:39] Yeah. What our college told us, it was a blended learning and told us the best thing you can do is probably just move down. And obviously that’s not the case because we have not been on campus since 2019. Obviously we had a different story, but we haven’t been on campus all year for our final year. So the promises made there was another mistake.

 

Orla: [00:05:02] I definitely think that it’s going to take a lot to build up the trust again between students and the management of higher education institutes. That’s definitely something that needs to centre their approach. There definitely needs to be reform of phase because there is no way that parents or students can continue to pay three thousand euro for people to live in their box and roll in and out of their bed onto their desk.

 

Shauna: [00:05:29] The blaming of like it’s not even just been the blaming on students on the pandemic. I was saying it earlier. There was an article about blaming students for being on the pandemic payment because they had lost their jobs. And that was somehow.

 

Orlan: [00:05:47] As if we live on thin air. I think that there is this mindset that parents pay for everything, but in reality, that’s a very, you know, a reality for a very few.

 

Shauna: [00:05:58] Yeah. And also but it’s like if they lost their job like everyone else, why are they, again, just taken out of the group and just shown as students doing this? It’s students that are racking up all this is students that are going to make us go into a new recession, are going to break the economy because they’re on these payments the whole time when it’s like students are not the only ones on the payments. And they if they have a right to be, if the system allows them to get the payments, I don’t understand these articles that are just deciding to like, take students out of a group. And again, it makes people feel so bad that they’re on the payment. It makes people feel so bad about them. You know, in the article, it says they’re just sitting around doing nothing when, you know, obviously a lot of them are full time college students and also that they’re not being productive enough in the pandemic. Like we can’t be productive enough to be staying at home, are meant to be trying to look out for people. Like it’s almost like what do they, what do you want them to do? Because I don’t think they’re realizing these articles that are coming out. I don’t think they’re realizing how harmful they are to students’ mental health. Students’ mental health is at an all time low. And obviously we’re not trying to exclude other forms of people. I’m not saying that only students have mental health problems. I’m not saying that only young people. But from, you know, the perspective of those who are students now, that’s all that we can talk about and that’s all that we know. And they are people who are suffering a lot with their mental health. And there is no consideration in publishing these articles, how impactful they are to the mental health of students.

 

Orla: [00:07:40] Yeah, it’s definitely, I think, affecting students, particularly young adults. Obviously, there’s mature students as well, but young adults have the responsibilities of adults, but treating them as children, you can’t win that way. We don’t know where we stand, what we’re meant to be doing.

 

Shauna: [00:07:56] Obviously, mental health has been such a big, big fight in Ireland, like I think only now and I don’t even know now are we even comfortable by talking about it, because I don’t think we are, especially the older generations. I don’t think as an open conversation as it should be, the pandemic has been so isolating and so it’s not going to positively, you know, like I was saying this, there’s two, there was two types of people going in and coming out of the pandemic. There’s people that took the time who realized, oh, maybe I should work on myself, improve my mental health, all this on the other. And then there’s people where it got worse for them. And then there’s people who have never had mental health issues at all. But going into such isolating circumstances, they’ve you know, they’ve now developed them or they’ve now, it’s now triggered something in them. One of the biggest ones you kind of said it was that integrating students back into campus, obviously, but also like the social anxiety that is going to come from the pandemic, I think is going to be massive. You know, like I’ve forgotten how to socialize. I just don’t know how to like, I don’t know how to talk to someone new. First year going into college and a big, big thing of them not experiencing college at all and went back online.

 

Orla: [00:09:21] If it goes online next year, they’re two years out there. Three years. Yeah. They’re not going to have the same college experience. And I definitely feel as though, you know, I went into college just because everyone else was and I didn’t know what to do. But through engaging with other people with the same interests me, you know, through society, through volunteering, through going out and meeting people. Yeah, I’ve really developed a sense of myself and who I want to be and who I am. And I think like, that’s impossible to do from your bedroom. Online college just isn’t about the learning, doing the readings or studying this is definitely a lot more. And they haven’t got any of that experience. So I can’t imagine how hard it is for them.

 

Shauna: [00:10:02] Yeah, I think that I could not imagine me going into first year when I was eighteen, not being able to see anyone because, you know, I didn’t know anyone when I moved down here. And you’re just in a class on Zoom and you have to try to make friends on Zoom like they don’t. What they’ve missed out on, if that makes sense, they don’t know that there is a whole new side to college that is so good for them that

 

Orla: [00:10:30] It’s so important.

 

Shauna: [00:10:32] It’s so important. It makes, I think, first year. I mean, I think of, you know, and we are different people.

 

Orla: [00:10:38] We are. And I don’t think it’s because of the things I learned in classrooms or tutorials or labs. It’s definitely things I figured I as I’ve lived on my own, as I’ve separated from my parents and things like that,

 

Shauna: [00:10:50] All of it, you know, kind of makes you and shapes you so that you can, I guess, handle the world when you leave college. You know, like you have a bit of a backbone. You have a bit of common sense.

 

Orla: [00:11:03] I also recently, just today, seen an article going around saying basically saying that marijuana was the biggest threat to young people’s mental health. Number one, I think everyone’s living with their parents at the minute, like there’s a, there’s a housing crisis. How can you move? I know there’s, like it’s impossible for young people to move out and they’re living with their parents, you know, and not to mention the fact that we have the imminent danger of climate change. We’re living through a global pandemic. Yeah, and we are bombarded by social media. But it’s marijuana. Yeah. It’s like your six month waiting on a psychologist appointment. Any time you get sent to these mental health charities, which should not be charities, they should they…

 

Shauna: [00:11:56] Should not be.

 

Orla: [00:11:57] Mental health services. And you get sent to them and they have certain religious ethos behind them

 

Shauna: [00:12:04] Or a certain number of sessions. Again, you know, and then where do you go?

 

Orla: [00:12:09] You get six sessions within, like, the university. And I know that there’s a lot of students to deal with, but you get six sessions. You know, these are the student services that you’re paying with your three and a half grand and then on top with your shit and then you get like six sessions and then you’re sent away. And if that can help what not, it might help some people. And I’m sure it does. And it’s not the fault of any one of the brilliant people that work in the student counseling service. Yeah, but it’s just that I think mental health is definitely ignored anyway. And without having the services, there is just going to get increasingly worse and it’s just going to be passed down through generation to generation because or people know how to deal with their mental health, know how to practice mindfulness, something that you can let your anger out on from a young age, not when it becomes a problem. It shouldn’t be a cure. It should just be a practice that’s embedded in your life.

 

Shauna: [00:13:08] Learn about healthy eating in school. Food dudes come along if you choose healthy eating. We learn about fitness in school PE. And yet it’s always, always. There’s just this absence of like, teaching yourself how to take care of your mind, like how to take care when you feel things just aren’t right, you know.

 

Orla: [00:13:28] Yeah, definitely. And there always has to be like, this bigger problem, this bigger underlying problem, why you have mental health issues when sometimes you actually just don’t know how to deal with college stress.

 

Shauna: [00:13:43] Yeah, yeah. A global pandemic would do it. And I think also like there’s such a, I guess, misunderstanding with mental health that people think it’s either triggered by trauma or you are going through a stressful time. But like it it is literally physically a chemical imbalance. And sometimes nothing can happen in your life and you just develop a mental you just like it, you just have it. And there’s not anything that could have stopped it. And there’s nothing that, you know, like there’s so it’s just a misunderstanding that people only get it if they have a bad life, which I just think we should be over this by now. We should have known and should know this.

 

Orla: [00:14:27] I do wonder, has it, like, changed, you know, anywhere else? Is it that we’re just so far behind or is the same story everywhere?

 

Shauna: [00:14:36] Yeah, and I hope that in this, you know, like there’s a lot of talk now of we’re getting students back on campus. We’re making sure that the Leaving Cert is next year is all going to be sorted. You know, we’re making sure all these students are going to be well taken care of by next September. I hope that in those plans there is a big plan for the amount of issues that are going to come out of the pandemic and the amount of people that are going to need help. And they’re going to be struggling because they’re already struggling. But people are having them. Wait, wait a bit. It’s still a pandemic. Wait a bit. A lot of people can’t wait.

 

Orla: [00:15:12] You know, I suppose with all the negativity that this podcast has brought to all of our listeners is definitely. Important thing, I think it’s important to say that, you know, there are brighter times ahead if you are struggling with your mental health. There are people out there that can help, you know, reach out to your friends, make sure that they’re doing OK. Having a bad day doesn’t mean that you’re you know, you’re not doing well and that healing is not linear.

 

Shauna: [00:15:45] And you don’t let these articles or these opinions ruin what you’ve got going on.

 

Orla: [00:15:53] You know, don’t know. And if you are struggling, do not forget to text 50808 for any help that you may need.

Shauna: [00:16:04] Thanks, everyone, so much for listening. This has been Shaunaand Orla, and if you want to find out more about the work of STAND, check STAND.ie.

 

 

 

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