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Macquarie University Provides Inadequate Support as Students Return to Face-to-Face Group Learning

DONYA AMADI|FEATURES



A Note from the Producer:


This story is important to me because it protects the public interest by advancing a story that meaningfully supports mental health in an era where there are increased mental health challenges as students adapt to swift changes in Macquarie University's teaching models. Upon returning to campus this semester after more than two years of remote learning, I have personally experienced the challenges of socialising with peers and teaching staff in face-to-face settings. Many students have opted and preferred to stay learning online as face-to-face learning can be too daunting, particularly in scenarios where class participation is graded. It is crucial to bring this story to the attention of the Macquarie University community as students who suffer from social anxiety disorders may significantly impact their education and future employment, with decreased levels of educational achievement and lack of career progression. [1]


The views expressed by the author are not those of the publisher. This piece was written and created by an independent student journalist. Grapeshot reached out to the university for comment, and their response can be found below.



Transcript:


Students at Macquarie University have reported that current university policies fail to respond to supporting students’ mental health challenges, as face-to-face learning resumes during semester one, following almost two years of online learning due to New South Wales COVID-19 lockdown measures.


A report by the University of Sydney has found that lockdowns have “disrupted social relationships” and led to feelings of “loneliness, disconnection and anxiety” amongst students. [2]


"It's been quite confronting returning to classes on campus and interacting in large groups after such a long time. I don't think the Uni acknowledges how difficult this transition has been for students' mental health." [3]


Macquarie University currently offers six free, confidential counselling sessions annually with a student well-being psychologist to support students’ social and emotional needs. [4]


77% of young people reported a decline in their mental health since the COVID-19 outbreak. [5] The Australian Government provided an additional $12.25 million of funding in July 2021 to ensure people in New South Wales can access additional mental health support during such difficult times. [6]


The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted university teaching online as New South Wales went in and out of lockdowns and deemed on-campus learning ‘unsafe’ as positive case numbers increased daily.


COVID-19 case numbers have been trending slightly lower in New South Wales, with 11,939 new cases reported by 4 pm on Wednesday. [7]


Donya Amadi reporting for MQTV news from isolation.




A Macquarie University spokesperson provided a statement in relation to this piece. They said:

We recognise, as raised in this student's video, that some students have found the gradual return to face-to-face teaching challenging, and we provide a range of activities and support options to assist students in connecting, maintaining their health and wellbeing and succeeding in their studies. We have increased the number of social activities on campus, including during O-Week, and restarted the Buddy program and the Language Café to assist students whose first language is not English to connect with other students and practice conversational English. Online supports include the Wellbeing app that offers programs to help students manage their mental health and wellbeing, and the TalkCampus app that was launched this session allowing students to connect with other students around the world for peer support. This is in addition to services already provided by the Student Wellbeing team and MQ Health Student Health.

Students Wellbeing Being well in all aspects of your life is key so you can thrive throughout your studies. Find out more about the wellbeing resources Macquarie offers you. MQ Health General Practice MQ Health General Practice, located at Macquarie University and Marsfield, offers comprehensive and well-established healthcare for your entire family




[1] Wilson, G. I. (2005). Screening for social anxiety disorder in first year university students: a pilot study. Australian Family Physician, 34(11), 983-984. https://hekyll.services.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/17216/1/hdl_17216.pdf


[2] Bower, M., Smout, S., Ellsmore, S., Donohoe-Bales, A.,, Sivaprakash P.P., Lim, C., Gray, M., Francis, A., Richer, J., & Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank. (2021). COVID-19 and Australia’s mental health: An overview of academic literature, policy documents, lived experience accounts, media and community reports. Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank. https://mentalhealththinktank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/AustraliasMentalHealthThinkTank-EvidenceSummary-COVID-MentalHealth.pdf.


[3] S. Kafle, personal communication, (May 3, 2022).


[4] Macquarie University (2022, May 4). Confidential counselling for students. https://students.mq.edu.au/support/personal/counselling.


[5] Headspace. (2020). Coping with COVID: the mental health impact on young people accessing headspace services. https://headspace.org.au/assets/Uploads/COVID-Client-Impact-Report-FINAL-11-8-20.pdf.


[6] Minister for Health and Aged Care. (2021, July 14). COVID-19 Mental Health Boost for New South Wales [Press release]. https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/covid-19-mental-health-boost-for-new-south-wales.


[7] NSW Health. (2022, May 4). COVID-19 (Coronavirus). https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/default.aspx.

NOTE: Video of student on laptop and COVID testing was retrieved from Shutterstock. All other content was created myself.



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