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:



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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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