Without safe social spaces, students will seek out unsafe ones

social spaces illustration
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University students across Canada have reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted as a result of isolation. The AMS’ recent call for more safe social spaces on campus would address these growing mental health issues, but we need to expand these spaces even further if we want to take care of students year round.

The AMS has proposed outdoor tents with heating and Wi-Fi for students on campus. The University should not only listen to these calls for social spaces but consider expanding on this idea with indoor spaces, more library seating, and places for people to study on campus.

Premier Ford’s recent crackdown on social bubbles likely has many people, including students, concerned. Socializing is necessary in maintaining mental health, especially as young adults. If we don’t create safe social spaces for students, they’ll inevitably seek socialization in unsafe ones.

While outdoor tents are a good idea in the short-term, they won’t be viable once winter sets in and with it, seasonal depression. The University currently has countless empty buildings; creating safe social spaces inside them would give students a place to go, particularly in the winter months when they might need it most.

Mental health is important. We shouldn’t shame people for seeking out social interactions, as dangerous as they may be at this time. Everyone is lonely right now, and it makes sense students would rather risk catching COVID-19 than slowly watch their mental health decline. Queen’s has a responsibility to facilitate social interaction safely.

Safe social spaces on campus will not only allow students to get necessary socialization, but give them a place to go if they need a change of scenery and an escape from Zoom fatigue. While most students are surrounded by housemates, these people might not be their primary support systems. They might need to seek comfort outside of their household bubble, or just spend alone time outside of the house altogether.

Having safe social spaces on campus would give these students somewhere to go; otherwise, they’ll inevitably venture downtown, potentially putting Kingston residents at risk.

Things are never going to feel normal until they’re normal again. Safe social spaces on campus might not provide the same organic social settings we had pre-pandemic, but they’re something.

Staying healthy is important, but so is maintaining our mental health. Social spaces provide an opportunity for both, allowing students to socialize, but also be safe. It won’t ease feelings of isolation completely—but it’s a start.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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