The media really hasn’t held back on coronavirus freshers’ coverage over the last few weeks. Whilst there has been some genuinely helpful and insightful content, unfortunately, there’s also been a lot of front page coverage surrounding students, university and a subsequent rise in coronavirus cases throughout September.
This negative press seems to stem from an interview Matt Hancock had with the BBC, where he warned young people about their behaviour and a potential a rise in covid cases, telling them not to “kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.” Naturally, this comment sparked outrage across the UK and started a much wider debate.
Earlier in September we wrote about how some research we undertook contradicts Hancock’s comments which prematurely scapegoated students amid an almost inevitable rise in covid cases following the government’s August initiatives to get the UK economy back on its feet. We also questioned whether blame culture has a role in this pandemic, especially when most students are following guidance set out by the government/their university.
At Endsleigh, we’re student insurance specialists. We’ve spent over fifty years getting to know and building relationships with young people. Therefore, we’re supporting them through this time and think it’s important for others to do so too.
Here are some things you can do to support students during the unwarranted media backlash currently tainting an important time in their lives.
• Educate yourself
If you’re not on social media much, or don’t watch TV, you may not be aware of what’s going on in the news. The reality is, hundreds of news articles get published every single day, many of which are currently portraying students in a negative light. Type in ‘fresher’, ‘university’ or ‘student’ into the News section of your favourite search engine and read some of the latest articles so you’re up to date with what’s being said.
Keep in mind that most students are heading to university prepared to have a different freshers’ experience to normal and have been following both government and university guidance on being able to socialise following the easing of lockdown measures. After so long in lockdown, it was probably inevitable that once measures started easing and people started socialising again, cases would start to rise. And ask yourself whether this spike in cases could have coincidentally clashed with students heading back to uni, leading to them unfairly getting the blame?
• Support a student
If you’re reading this, chances are you know someone who’s a student. If you do, it doesn’t matter who they are – be it a son, daughter, friend or cousin – let them know they can reach out and talk to you if they need to.
Many of us don’t do well with blame culture – with one in four people in the UK experiencing some kind of mental health issue every year. It may not seem like it, but negative press that targets a specific group of people can have a considerable impact on individuals within that group. Mental health is incredibly important and we think it’s essential to support people who may have been impacted in this way.
• Don’t be afraid to challenge others
If you hear others boldly echoing what they may have heard in the news, don’t be afraid to challenge them in a friendly manner. A gentle debate never hurt anyone and what’s the harm in educating others when you get the chance? Be the change you want to see!
• Express your concerns
If someone in your local constituency has made a brash statement like Matt Hancock’s, or you’re genuinely feeling concerned for local students in your area, exercise your right to contact to your MP and express those concerns.
• Appreciate that there are some battles you won’t win
Whilst we’re supporting students and keen to emphasise the fact that all students shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush, as with most circumstances in life, there will naturally be some people who aren’t following the rules and are an exception to the cause you’re fighting for.
• If you have a platform, use it
If you’re fortunate enough to have a following, utilise that following in spreading the message. Perhaps you’re a social media influencer, or maybe you run a business with a successful blog; an audience is an audience and if they can help you in your bid to support students, then that’s fantastic.
Whilst we’re keen to be there for students, we’re not saying spend all of your waking hours preaching their innocence to the masses. Even if you’re able to take one of the above points and educate just one other person, that’s one person more than before. And if you’re able to show for support your student friends/family members by being in their corner during this strange time, it may help them more than you’ll realise. After all, it’s all about using your power for the greater good!