Mental health issues on the rise in Leicester hospital staff

By Courtney Stevens

The Number of NHS staff in Leicester hospitals who have reported absent due to depression and anxiety has increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Over the pandemic NHS staff have been under a lot of pressure to keep everyone safe and healthy which has led to an increase in depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health issues. 

Becca McDonald, a third-year nursing student at De Montfort University, said her mental health has suffered during the pandemic: 

“I’ve found my social anxiety is a lot higher now and I’m finding it difficult to adapt back to normal.’ 

“I’ve noticed stress levels increasing drastically since the pandemic with lots of healthcare staff having to take time off due to their mental health or stress.”  

Figures show that between September 2018 and October 2019 there were 1,320 members of staff who reported absent due to mental health issues compared to 1,768 members of staff who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

Miss McDonald has noticed the impact the pandemic has had on NHS staff: 

“I try to avoid taking days off and I push myself to be productive, saying that, I have had to take one or two days off because of being completely exhausted and I know that I can’t practice safely if I’m not mentally equipped.’ 

“Lots of staff have left their jobs, either because of long covid making them too ill to work in healthcare anymore, or because of the issues that went on during the pandemic causing people to dislike their job and finding it better to leave.”  

Figures also show that there is a difference in the number of men reporting absent compared to the number of women.  

Between September 2018 and October 2019, there were 1,169 women and 151 men who reported absent compared to 1,549 women and 219 men who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

During the pandemic staff were offered extra support due to the rise of depression and anxiety that they were experiencing.  

40 well-being hubs that were opened to give all health and social care staff access to psychologists. 

Miss McDonald said there is support available to her through the university: 

“The well-being team are incredible, offering six-week blocks of counselling when required.  

“I am also aware of NHS staff being signposted to classes such as meditation or yoga to help those that may benefit from them.”  

Survey finds mental health issues increase among students in second year of university

By Liv Slomka

Students’ mental health worsens during their second year of studies at university, a small study has revealed, when they say they find the pressure and the workload increases.

In a small anonymous study aimed at past and present university students, we found that student mental health is mostly affected by loneliness.

Based on my recent anonymous survey, students’ mental health has been getting worse in their second year at university. In this survey, we had 16 participants, with 9 of them rating their mental health as poor and 5 as fair. Only 2 students felt like their mental health was good during their second year of studies.

One of our anonymous participants said: “My student loan went down a lot since last year and I swapped jobs 3 times since July which is adding a lot of pressure on me.

“I can’t go out because I’m constantly trying to save money before my next temporary contract at work runs out. All I do is work, look for a permanent job or do university work and it’s just a lot.”

Eleven out of 16 participants said that they have pre-existing mental health problems before starting university and only 4 are receiving help for these.

Students are also known for going out and partying during their time at university. We also asked our participants if they think students are using substance abuse like alcohol to deal with their mental health getting worse.

Here are the results:

Six strongly agreed with the statement and another 6 agreed. Students are trying to find ways to deal with their mental health alone which can lead to substance abuse, this shows that students need more support when dealing with bad mental health.

Another participant said: “ I think that understanding people may be stressed is important and if they are stressed, let them have extra time and give people more money to live on as people may need money to survive as well as have a social life.”

Based on these results from the anonymous survey, we need to think about what we can introduce to help students get through university without affecting their mental health as much and helping them when needed. We all feel pressure at university but how can we take a little bit of it away?

Covid hospitalisations down in Leicester despite winter approaching

The onset of winter this year seems to be bringing a very different trend than 12 months ago. Ben Stevens delves into the statistics behind Covid hospitalisations in Leicester.

Covid hospitalisations down in Leicester despite winter approaching

Free school meals are on the rise 

By Courtney Stevens

The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals has increased by nearly 10 per cent since the January 2015/16 school year. 

The pandemic has seen a sharp rise in those eligible for free school meals as parents have struggled with losing income due to not working.  

In England, all school pupils in reception, year one and year two in state schools can get a free school meal. 

Children who are older and not in those year groups may also be eligible for free school meals if they fit a certain criteria ie parents claim benefits or they earn less than £7,400 a year. 

The graph below shows the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals in January of each year in state funded schools for all ages: 

In January 2018/19 15.4 per cent of pupils were eligible for free school meals before the pandemic but this has risen to 22.5 per cent of pupils in January 2021/22 after the pandemic.

This steep increase could be explained by parents being out of work due to the pandemic who are therefore on lower incomes than they would have been before.  

Before the pandemic, the difference in pupils on free school meals was small between January 2015/16 and January 2018/19.

There were increases and decreases in the number but the percentage stayed around 15 per cent for those three years, suggesting parents were earning a similar amount of money each year. 

However, in the years between January 2018/19 and January 2021/22, the number of pupils on free school meals rose more than the previous three years, highlighting how more children are living in low income families than before.  

The pressures on parents to have enough money to feed their children whilst also having enough money to pay for bills and other necessary expenses has led to them relying more on free school meals. 

The government scheme for free school meals has become increasingly more important and is something that families cannot afford to lose.  

Talented artist boosts mental health in the community with sensational artwork

by George Kirk

A Leicester artist has been placing envelopes with artwork inside around the city, in an attempt to improve mental health.

Spreading a message: Anton Levy Amoo with one of his cards

The envelopes contain key messages of support and inspiration as well as on the actual art, with the main goal being to point people who are struggling in the right direction to get support, as well as to motivate people.

Anton Levy Amoo started these acts of kindness just before the first lockdown after an increase in suicides were being reported in Rowlatts Hill area of Leicester.

Anton said that it made him think to himself “How can I use my heart to make a positive effect.”

It started off with just two a week around his local area with Anton eventually branching out to Leicester as a whole as well as other cities around the UK.

This led to him being spotted by BBC Radio Leicester and brought onto one of its shows.

Eye-catching: Artwork featured inside one of his envelopes

Anton said that working in a school for 10 years made him understand the importance of mental health and want to make a difference in society.

The work he has done so far has made him connect with a lot of people already.

He explained how a man suffering with agoraphobia found his artwork around the city and it helped boost his confidence and forget about his issues.

As well as this, an NHS worker was uplifted by messages of love and kindness on his artwork after a bad day at work.

Anton said that the sole aim is to raise awareness for mental health. He said: “People aren’t finding art, but art is finding them.”

You can follow Anton and his work through the links below:




Helpful: Anton wants to support others