Students say COVID-19 negatively impacts mental health
Desteny Maragh – News Editor
Rafaela Martinez – Contributor
Idonia Thomas – Contributor
Jose Vega – Contributor
College students feel they have always had problems with mental health, but COVID-19 has intensified those issues. Since the pandemic hit, many students believe mental health needs to be a more prominent topic of discussion.
Dan Baronski, a psychology major and active member of the university Active Minds club said there are many resources for mental health advocacy and awareness, but students feel reluctant to seek them out because of all the stigmas surrounding mental health.
“I see students dealing with the pandemic the same as I am, full of anxiety. I really sympathize for the first-year students whom I work close with, because not only did they get their senior year of high school stripped from them,” said Baronski. “But they cannot even be a first-year college student without worrying about protocols and social distancing. It absolutely affected their mental health, and I can see it.”
First-year communications major Amanda Arnold said as a freshman, coming into college during the pandemic has only made the transition to the university harder.
“I don’t know exactly how to be a college student,” said Arnold. “Trying to figure out the ropes while in the middle of a pandemic
, hasn’t been easy.”
One in five college students said their mental health has worsened since COVID-19 began and 88.8% of overall college students
overall felt their mental health getting worse overtime with rising anxiety rates, according to the data collected by the national Active Minds organizations in September. 2020.
Baronski recommends all college students use Active Minds as a resource for any mental health related needs and information. Active Minds is a nationwide organization that focuses on removing the negative stigmas around mental health. It also educates the public on what is happening with mental health using data collected around the U.S.
Stefany Vazquez, a junior, communication major at SCSU explained her mental health has depleted since the pandemic started; Many things in her life that brought her joy, changed.
“I don’t feel motivated to do things that I’ve previously loved doing before. I lost my job, lost friends, lost myself in the span of eight months. I used to love going to Target or the movies to destress but now it’s not recommended to go.” said Vazquez.
According to a study conducted in September of 2020 by Southern’s Counseling Services, an average of 64% of students are experiencing increased levels of being overwhelmed by school work and being worried about the health of one or more close relatives, while 71% of students are experiencing an increased level of stress and anxiety overall.
Shaoshi Huang, a junior history student at SCSU, expressed how pleased he was with the help being provided by Counseling Services; while he is usually able to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed in past semesters, everything changed when SCSU switched to remote learning.
“I don’t think people outside academia understand how much more work comes with online courses,” said Huang. “I am a good student, but I went to the counseling center because, as any student will tell you, this semester is different and tougher than anything I have experienced in my collegiate coursework.”
Nursing major Martha Polanco, a junior, said she went to receive counseling services due to the stress she faced while completing her required nursing hours for her degree.
“I mainly went to go talk with someone about how what I’ve been seeing has been affecting me,” said Polanco. “Patients come in with a variety of problems but it takes a real toll on a person’s mental health, especially when COVID-19 patients come in and you have the stress of thinking about how your friends and family might be affected if you get the disease.”
Director of Counseling Services Nicholas Pinkerton said that while clinicians at Counseling Services are working to provide high quality services to students, they are expanding services in a pandemic era to accommodate everyone.
“Following the spring semester, our team of clinicians made concerted efforts to provide additional mental health awareness and support to our students,” said Pinkerton.
Counseling Services works towards providing quality services to students, even though this new modality of online help. The department uses social media running the THRIVE Wellbeing Series and Ask Me Anything campaign offered Mondays on their Instagram.
“While demand for counseling continues to rebound and grow, some predict that it will eventually outpace anything we have seen prior to the pandemic,” said Pinkerton.
“Unsurprisingly, students report their primary complaints have been anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation, and relationship concerns,” said Pinkerton. “The nature of this ongoing crisis is such that it has been more difficult to wrap-up the work and terminate services for students.”
Pinkerton then pointed out the necessity of mental health support services moving forward, based on the initial toll the pandemic is having on students.
“We have really only seen the initial implications of the profound sense of grief and loss, loneliness and disconnection, and ambiguity and fear that this global pandemic has thrust upon us, and it seems likely that prioritizing mental health support will be increasingly important moving forward,” said Pinkerton.
Enroue Halfkenny is a private practitioner at Healing and Liberation Counseling located in New Haven which specializes in mental health, justice, and spiritual working.
Halfkenny has worked with various schools, universities, and organizations throughout Connecticut and has introduced solutions to try to help manage mental health.
“What’s important is finding the things that are nurturing for themselves. Particularly when you’re in college, there is so much pressure because this is a huge investment of time, money, and resources to be in college,” said Halfkenny.
Halfkenny said it is really important to stay connected to the things that are nurturing for one’s body such as exercise, talking to friends, spiritual and religious practices, or even stress reduction activities.
“It’s also about not undoing the stress but doing the thing that fills you up,” said Halfkenny. “For me, being in nature is one way of doing that because it helps me connect to the world around me.”
“Just paying attention to how things are changing and moving in a way that they always have can sometimes be really helpful particularly in a time where everything doesn’t seem normal,” said Halfkenny.
Photo credit: Jose Vega