Vaania Achuthan

As part of Isolation Diaries

Trigger Warning: Mention of suicide

Ever since students have moved into halls at the start of the term, reports on student suicides and suicide ideation have been on a surge. These feelings are further exacerbated when students are made to isolate, with little to no readily available resources to cater to their mental health. Recently, in a UCL Halls of Residence, a suicide incident was closely prevented jointly by members of that flat and the Metropolitan Police force.

On the day that we found out that this incident took place, I was taken aback. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Thank god the windows have locks”.  This was a wakeup call, as we all rushed to each other’s rooms, and embraced in a warm hug, despite the fear of COVID. Perhaps at that time, we’d rather be a victim of COVID than let our flatmates fall prey to suicide, for the latter had a sense of guilt and responsibility tied to it which will never fade away. Since then, our bonds with members of our flat have grown extensively; the memory of this incident looms in the back of our heads, and fear echoes throughout.

We have started spending more time around one another by cooking together or watching movies. We also started studying together – be it at Pret or at one of the many UCL Libraries. Further, this experience prompted us to be more aware and sensitive to our fellow flat mates, as we regularly check up on them and try to help out, in any way possible. Such small yet significant changes can truly make a person feel that they belong and prevent alienation, so I urge all students living in Halls to try and engage in more activities with their flat mates.

While the COVID pandemic has taken us two steps away from those not in our household, it has also brought us two steps closer to those in it. I can only be grateful that my household includes some of my closest friends and although we have only met a little over a month ago, I truly believe that if we can withstand a deadly virus together, our bonds are unbreakable. Perhaps in a way I am grateful that we get to spend so much time together as I can only speculate that had this pandemic not have occurred, we would not have been able to build such close-knit relationships.

As an international student myself, I was overwhelmed with fear before moving into Halls, particularly because I was moving in with a bunch of strangers. However, I now know that I have people I can always talk to – all I have to do is knock on their doors. My family back in my country of birth have been extremely concerned – a concern stemming from a place of jealousy as they have now realized that I’ve got another family – my extended Halls of Residence family!

This appeared in Issue 74