Lauren Alex Hooper | Covid-19 and Mental Health in Higher Education

Our MA in Songwriting student tells us how she's kept her studies on track during the Covid-19 crisis... 


As we all know, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the way we live, study and learn.

The upheaval has been particularly challenging for neurodivergent students and students experiencing mental health issues. Our MA Songwriting student Lauren Alex Hooper is one such student and was invited to share her experiences and advice as part of a recent online conference on Covid-19 and Mental Health in Higher Education from Universities UK

We caught up with Lauren to find out more about her 2020 and how she's tackled studying amid a global pandemic... 

How did you get involved with the conference?

A month or so before the conference, someone from Universities UK got in touch with me after discovering my blog, Finding Hope.

I post mainly about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the mental health struggles I deal with, and how they affect my life. I’d posted about my first week back at university during the pandemic and how all the changes had thrown everything up in the air. She asked me if I would be interested in being part of the conference and speaking on a panel about how to support autistic students in coping with all the changes to their education experience, drawing from both my experience of doing a BA pre-pandemic and doing an MA during the pandemic.

I said yes straight away. Autism is still relatively under researched and talked about (especially when it comes to women and girls), so I’m always keen to help in whatever way I can, whether that’s volunteering for research or sharing my experiences.

How did the session go? What were the highlights for you?

The panel went really well. I’ve never really done anything like this before; I’ve never spoken on a panel as part of a conference. I was really nervous but everyone from Universities UK and the other panellists – all three university lecturers and autism researchers – were all really lovely and working with them was a big part of why it was such a positive experience.

They shared from their areas of research and I shared about my experience as an autistic student during these times of uncertainty, something that is notoriously difficult for autistic people to manage. So I talked about the challenges of being an autistic student and what has been helpful since starting back in September.

It was all a really good experience but the Q&A at the end felt particularly special because I had attendees asking for my advice, my thoughts on situations, because they felt my experience had value and could be useful to them. That was so empowering … I can’t really put it into words."

How has Covid-19 impacted your studies? What changes have you made and what has been helpful?

The pandemic has had a massive impact on me, on my mental health, on my university work and experience… I was incredibly lucky that, due to being a part time MA student, I didn’t have any classes between April and September (approximately). I couldn’t have done it. My mental health was in free fall and my anxiety in particular would’ve made it impossible to do any work at all, let alone creative work.

I was in a more stable place when I started my second year but the blended classes were a struggle, especially when it came to communicating, which is an area I already struggle with due to my ASD. The change to having all of my classes online (as in, we were all online rather than the blended model) was jarring but once I got used to it, it was definitely a better option. The really big thing for me was all of the change going on at the beginning of the semester, all the uncertainty that had me in a constant state of completely debilitating anxiety. Since I've settled into a rhythm and developed some coping mechanisms, I have been able to manage better and hopefully the songs I’m turning in are reflecting that.

As for what’s helped, the most important thing has been having consistent and supportive communication with my tutors. They’ve all been really willing to work with me to get the most out of the module without it causing me unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety and I’m so grateful for that. Working together to keep the uncertainty and anxiety to a minimum has honestly been what’s made these last few months possible.

Have you any advice for anyone experiencing similar challenges?

I have to come back to communication.

If you can reach out to a tutor or the wellbeing team and tell them what you’re struggling with, they can help you so much more than if you’re trying to manage your difficulties alone."

Getting support is possible, even if you don’t know what that will look like when you ask (although having some sense of what would make things easier can accelerate the process). It generally takes time and energy and communication to get it right but once you do, it can make all the difference.

Visit to learn more about Lauren and her experiences. 

Find out more about ICMP's Wellbeing team

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Songwriting courses
by ICMP staff writer
December 8, 2020
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