Thousands of college students packed like sardines into lecture halls. Assignments started piling up, leaving students overwhelmed with worry. Their minds were put at ease, as spring break quickly arose, and students excitedly participated in their mindless shenanigans. Suddenly, phones began blowing up with unforeseen news. Emails read, “ATTENTION, with our community’s health and safety in mind, we will be delivering all classes online, beginning now, throughout the end of the Spring 2020 semester.”
In hindsight, little did we know that our lives would be forever changed, when the Coronavirus was officially declared a global pandemic.
Gradually, a perfect storm was brewing in the lives of college students, as online classes, and social isolation began to overcome their lives for the worse. The storm seemed to be endless, with severe wind speeds, intense thunder and lightning, and mass flooding overtaking cities across the globe.
Simultaneously, students sheltered in their homes began to suffer from symptoms of extreme anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, especially as a result of the infectious virus.
Bloomsburg student, Madelyn Morris struggled with online classes during COVID, as it sparked increased anxiety learning from home. The Speech Pathology major indicated, “I wake up and I do my classes in the same space where I relax, or sleep at night, and you just feel like you’re constantly trapped in your stress.”
Morris learned how to implement healthy strategies into her routine, saying that meeting up with friends, and staying involved in community via student clubs is very beneficial. She also emphasized going for a walk, driving, and “finding a way to separate myself from whatever stress I have at the moment, is the biggest thing that helps me.”
Similarly, Dr. Brett Beck is a clinical psychologist and former professor of Psychology at Bloomsburg. In an interview, he focused on coping mechanisms and provided strategies on how students should handle their adversities.
“Social support, your friends, family, you gotta have that, and you gotta find ways to maintain those relationships. Particularly for depression and anxiety, keeping your activity going is so important… because the intense physical exercise is almost the same chemical structure as some of the antidepressants… but you have to do them, they don’t work in any sort of partial framework in the present environment” commented Beck.
Primarily, students and mental illness should be a topic that is highly normalized; since it is essentially the first step to an individual recognizing they should seek professional help.
Kristi Hammaker, Bloomsburg’s Health and Wellness Educator gave her thoughts remarking, “I think more than anything what we want to do is train peers… and other students to be able to recognize signs and symptoms to normalize or destigmatize asking for help, talking about it, just in conversation.”
Furthermore, there are countless resources at students’ disposal surrounding mental health. The B.U. Counseling Center offers individual and group counseling, triage-style walk-ins, guest lectures, workshops, and other wellness related events. Additionally, their office hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Overall, students should utilize this resource as the Counseling Center website states, “Unprecedented times call for unparalleled support! We are committed to providing BU students with professional quality mental health services.”
Additionally, there are several online resources that are readily available, in times when someone is especially battling. Online therapy such as Better Help can be accessed within a few clicks, along with support groups within one’s community.
In short, COVID-19 has highlighted college students’ struggle with mental illness and allowed universities to take initiative in making a positive change in their students’ well-being throughout college and beyond.