By: Brooke Jasper
What comes to mind when someone says the word pandemic? Some might think of the year that we had to spend in our houses. Others will think of the tireless efforts of the frontline healthcare workers and the appreciation we express for their work. Something else that comes to mind is online school that all students converted to from in-person class learning. What comes to my mind is the effect that all of this had on people’s mental health.
The Start of The End (of In-Person)
I would definitely say that during the pandemic my mental health did take a dip. Honestly, the main thing that contributed to the decline was the uncertainty of everything that was happening at that time.
In March 2020 is when it all began… I received an email from the university. It had said that our spring break was going to be three weeks instead of just one. Everyone had seen the recent news about COVID-19 and how bad it had gotten in other places. But I remembered thinking that we would be fine and that nothing would happen. I wasn’t sure whether we were going to be back in three weeks. Although, I was cautiously optimistic that the school year would continue as planned.
I was severely mistaken when a couple of weeks later we had gotten another communication from the university. The email said that we wouldn’t be returning to campus. The reason why was due to what was now being called a global pandemic by the CDC. This meant we would be going remote and using zoom for all of our classes. At that time I lived in one of the dorm buildings that were on campus. I remember a day or two after getting the first communication, freaking out not knowing what to do. Whether we take home our entire dorm room or maybe just the essentials was the main question of most. The decision I made was to take half of my dorm room because I wasn’t sure what I would need.
When I first got the email, I felt my heart drop. I was anxious about what would happen in the future and what that meant for school going forward. The major I was studying at Millersville was a predominantly production-based program. This meant lots of uncertainty about how projects would be completed and what our finals were going to be.
Isolation, Anxiety, Depression
Self-quarantining in the house was definitely a necessity for everyone’s health and safety. But, it certainly wasn’t helpful to anybody’s mental health. FaceTime, Zoom calls with friends and even just regular phone calls weren’t enough. Being online definitely did not feel the same as meeting with your friends in person. As well as just being able to live life like COVID-19 didn’t exist.
Every day the uncertainty of it all would make me more anxious than the next. I didn’t know if I was going to get it or if a family member was going to get it. My family had a few close calls during the year 2020. But I think the most draining part to my own personal mental health was actually getting Covid earlier this year. I was alone in my room and wasn’t allowed to interact with anyone. I only came downstairs to the kitchen when no one else was there just to make food for myself. The whole experience undoubtedly led to my anxiety and depression getting worse. My mental health eventually got to the point where I decided to take a leave of absence from school. Then after that was the transfer to West Chester University.
Mental Health of Students During the Pandemic
Since the pandemic began, many college students’ mental health has been declining rapidly. Higher levels of anxiety due to the uncertain times of the pandemic, worsening depression and suicidal thoughts as well as the overall sense of feeling isolated from friends, family, and peers, seem to be the most common mental health issues that college students have fought with since early on in 2020. According to Hari Sreenivasan at pbs.org, college students all are living the same story right now, “heightened isolation, depression. Anxiety, mental health crises, courtesy of a college experience stripped almost entirely of campus life, tradition and structure, on top of a pandemic.” It’s difficult to try and feel like there is normality in our daily life when it seems like this will continue to be our new normal for maybe even years to come.
From the same article mentioned above, one student named Alexa Patrick-Rodriguez shares that since the semester has started, all of her friends have began to attend therapy sessions. There has also been a decrease in enrollment numbers for most colleges as well as students dropping out during semesters. Hari Sreenivasan stated in the article, “Even in normal times, those who report mental health struggles are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school than their peers. There are stressors for those studying remotely.”
How to Manage Your Mental Health
Almost every university, if not all, have some sort of resource for mental health crises. Someone who can help, or even just someone to talk to has proven beneficial for most college students. All of which are already going through this unimaginable time of the pandemic. Most students struggle with learning online and being on Zoom for the majority of classes. Asking questions through a chat box is just not the same as the experience of being in the classroom where you can engage with the professor and classmates.
The priority of students’ mental health during this pandemic has been at an all-time high. The need for in-person interaction and the stability of a normal daily life also contribute to a higher rate of anxiety as well as a higher rate of depression in students. Being online for the past year and a half has had such a big impact on mental health. Not just students but everyone around the world. Reaching out to counseling centers on your campus is just one of the many things you can do to work on your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More to Read
If you would like to read more from the PBS article about college students and mental health, Click Here
If you would like to read a similar article click on this link How to Balance Stress and Anxiety During a Pandemic