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Mental Health In College Students is Spiking -Learn How They are Struggling Amidst the Coronavirus Outbreak

Alyssa Klier

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Mental health in college students is something that has always been of utmost concern. College students are very susceptible to many pressures, and changes. They move out of their homes into dorms where they have freedom and independence. But also a new copious amount of responsibilities ranging from managing academics, being involved on campus, and so on.

The rampant lifestyle change oftentimes translates into feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, and even depressed. These feelings tend to be onsets of experiencing mental health issues. And they heighten underlying mental health conditions that were either known or unknown.

One in two college students have reported struggling with mental health or claim their own as average or poor. Further, about 80% of students report feelings of being overwhelmed. 

With the increase of mental health issues in college students, colleges tend to provide many resources on campus to address these issues. Offices like counseling centers and safe offices are provided to students free of charge.

Additionally, these resources are accessible to any student with any experience ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, academic stress, etc.

Despite the mental health in college students being a national concern, these issues have allowed for a prolific amount of awareness. Offices and student leaders are able to address these concerns and acknowledge warning signs.

On a more national scale, there has been a guideline book released on how to address, navigate, and start conversations around mental health in this age demographic.

It is important to note that many students experiencing issues might turn to peers for support. College is a community where everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is experiencing the stress of academics and balancing other aspects of life with that.

Students tend to turn to one another and serve as each other’s support systems in times of need. They also gain a sense of agency and autonomy in college that they would not have at home. This independence can also serve as mentally beneficial to students.

With the recent Coronavirus outbreak, there have been many implications for the mental health of college students. The CDC has called for social distancing and staying at home in quarantine unless for the acquiring of essentials to help stop the spread of the virus. Colleges have created emergency plans that have sent students home for the remainder of their spring semester. 

Many students do not have their belongings with them or have even had the chance to say goodbye to their friends due to the rapidly changing nature of this unpredictable virus. The Coronavirus outbreak has caused many changes to the everyday lives of college students that they are used to by now. 

Classes have been put online and are now taught in a remote learning style. Graduations nationally have been postponed or turned virtual as CDC guidelines call for the canceling of mass gatherings. Abroad programs have been cancelled. Students on campus jobs have been cancelled. 

Remote campus resources like counseling centers or career offices are now very limited in online availability. Most importantly, students are now either living in their family homes or are unable to go home. 

Students that are unable to go home might live in a different country and are now stuck on a deserted campus with limited resources. Additionally, college students at home might not be used to living at home. It also might not be a positive experience for every college student.

 Every student has different circumstances with their family, financially, and mentally. Due to the closing of large events, in place dinings, gyms, sports, etc., college students are now forced to stay where they are with no escape or outlet of mental release.

Students have switched to e-learning due to the coronavirus outbreak

On-campus, college students have the freedom to do what makes them feel happy. But quarantine and shelter in place disallow this privilege. 

Despite this, college students are still expected to perform academically to their best ability even under distracting circumstances.

College students no longer have access to campus resources and friends as support systems to the same degree that they did on campus. 

Students might not be in the right headspace to perform to the best of their ability academically. Besides online tutoring resources, students do not have study spaces, office hours, or in person tutoring at home. Distractions at home like family members working remotely or bad wifi can make learning a burden.

 Students also are forced to continually face the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak and cope mentally with life changes on their own. This complete alteration of life can serve as overwhelming and unsettling. Especially since the mental health of college students is already fragile and a major concern.

As a college student, I have been able to talk to my college friends about how they are coping mentally with the Coronavirus outbreak and being at home. Amongst the six college students I talked to, three of them see this situation in a negative light.

Female Junior from Boston who is living at home says: “I’d say for me, I am struggling a lot more than I would be on campus. It’s really hard not being around my usual support system and also just with people who are dealing with the same kind of problems as I am.

Overall, I don’t feel the same kind of encouragement and desire to succeed, which I feel at school. It is a lot harder to dedicate myself to my schoolwork.”

Female Junior from China who is living on campus says: “The fact that I can’t socialize with people is making me depressed. Recent coping methods have been sleeping.”

Male Sophomore from Tennessee living at home says: “This is among the more painful experiences of my life. Not because of the virus, but because I’m not allowed to leave my house for literal months and I can’t see my friends until the fall, at earliest. 

The fact that we could be held at home for any amount of the fall semester scares me greatly. Closing college campuses might be the right thing to do now, but as crazy as this may seem, opening them in the fall is the right thing to do.  It has to happen.”

For people like us, not being able to go to college hurts us beyond anything. It’s going to get to the point where the fear of not being able to return to school is greater than any fear of contracting the virus, if it hasn’t gotten to that point already. 

I understand the reason for social distancing, but at the same time, we have lives to live. And, there just comes a time when we have to return to them.  Whether it’s us college kids or people working in any industry, we have to resume our lives at some point in the next few months. Never forget that’s a part of our well being and affects our health.”

While many college students have been having a hard time coping during the Coronavirus outbreak, many college college students have also remained positive during this time.

The three students I talked to focused on what exactly they are doing to cope with this situation in order to remain relaxed and mentally well. 

These students talked about keeping busy in whatever way they desire. This includes staying connected to others, and maintaining a routine involving self care.

Female Junior from New Jersey living at home says: “I think that this quarantine/ virus outbreak has really emphasized the importance of taking care of myself and my mental health.

 I have been more aware of the down time. I need from doing work or fulfilling other responsibilities, and the importance of exercising daily and getting good sleep.

I think that right now we have no break from the workday and no separation of spaces like we normally would. Whether it be an office or library we would normally inhabit to work, our homes have now constantly made us available to overwork ourselves. And, we all need to remember to take a minute for relaxation sometimes and enjoy this time together.”

Female Senior from Florida living at home says: “During quarantine, I have had to brainstorm ways to keep good mental health. I try to get outside every day whether it is for a walk or swimming in my pool because I know that getting fresh air and sunshine is important.”

My friends are also a good source of mental support during this time. I try to check in with them every few days over text or zoom so I feel connected to others. 

Not every day is a good mental health day, but I try to keep a normal schedule to remind myself to not spend every day in my room/house.”

Female Sophomore from Ohio living at home says: “I would say that mentally it is challenging to not be discouraged by the situation. But maintaining a routine, keeping in touch with friends, and spending some time outside to walk my dogs really helps me feel better.”

It is important to note that everyone has their own unique experience in dealing and coping with this issue. Everyone is struggling and everyone is trying to just keep pushing through in whatever way possible. No one experience downplays someone else’s experience. There is no right or wrong way to feel or respond. 

The coronavirus outbreak has put all college students in a difficult situation. College students have a lot of pressure on them academically. But the mental health of college students is something that should not be ignored. 

Adapting to a new routine at home can serve as quite challenging. It is imperative to pay attention to signs of stress. It is also necessary to manage stress by supporting others and finding healthy ways to unwind yourself as well.

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Halloween is Here-What to expect of it Amid the Pandemic?

Abrar Shah

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Two halloween jac-o-lanterns smiling and glowing in the dark outside of a house

Halloween this year will undeniably be different than in previous years. A significant number of young children across the country will be disappointed. Others will eagerly wait for the holiday to return to form next year, if even possible.

There is one clear takeaway from this year though. You should simply not conduct Halloween celebrations outdoors right now, for your own good. People are responsible for others now more than ever so it is a good time to reassess what holidays are truly important. 

Most people in the world are not fond of the pandemic, and rightfully so. Halloween arguably will take place in hell this year, since seeing a person without a costume in the current climate is more fear-inducing than a person with one. 

Since Halloween is in hell, there is no better time to mention one of Germany’s finest power-metal acts, Helloween. One of the pumpkin men’s most well-known songs is “I Want Out,” a strong summary of the average person’s feelings about the pandemic.

Of course, it is not impossible to celebrate Halloween right now. All indoor activities can simply remain as they are. People who interact with each other frequently enough would not have any additional concerns. 

For people who are fond of horror films, this year would arguably be the best Halloween possible. They can stay in and watch as many films back to back as they could possibly want. Plus, the great thing is that they are not putting anyone in danger unless of course there are a hundred people in the same room.

If you do consider having an army of individuals, AMC’s theater renting plan may be just for you. Many horror films are still meant to be savored on the big screen. 

Trick-or-treating this year for the casually-minded individual should be a no-go. Naturally, college students should not really see themselves performing the activity this many years later unless they truly believe they have an unseverable connection with it, perhaps because of younger siblings. 

The Halloween crisis this year brings up certain questions that you ought to ask yourself regularly, but are necessary to consider in the post-COVID world. Some of the following questions may seem awfully simple, but you’ll quickly realize the many things they can apply to, and make you reflect accordingly.

  • When was the last time you performed a task within its normal timeframe?
  • When was the last time you had to pick one activity over the other because of how much time other things were taking?
  • How many times have you spent consecutive holidays with the same people, and will that be the same this year?
  • Are there any activities you have done last year that have fallen out of favor this year?
  • Has the extended period of time at home made being home less appealing?
  • Has your household successfully maintained an olive branch for the duration of this year? In other words, have your family members kept the peace? 
  • What were some of your most important realizations over the past several months?
  • Do you consider all the sides to the story (If you’re an Extreme fan, the answer would perhaps be three)?
  • Have you developed any new habits (or even lost any)?
  • Have you had any major changes in perspective on standardized, cultural, or other issues?
  • Have you convinced yourself that a certain thing is more special than it once seemed?

These questions can go on and on. The important part is whether you can have answers to engage yourself with. 

The key idea left for you to consider is whether you will gain something from celebrating Halloween this year, whether it be in the standard fashion or tailoring your festivities in accordance with the current circumstances of the world.

Yes, the holidays only come once a year, but there is no better Halloween to decide how much you really care about this particular holiday going forward in your life, and whether it still brings as much joy as you may have had at a younger age.

Some people will challenge themselves to find a new way to enjoy something. Others will not let themselves be stopped from indulging in their pleasures. And then, of course, there are those who nod it off as another day in the week.

At the end of the day, you have to plan to do what you believe is best for you. You need to determine how meaningful it can possibly be, as well as how you would feel without doing it. The choice is yours, as it always has been, but will you make the right choice?

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3 Ways to Alleviate Germaphobia

Ivonne Scaglione

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Man sitting against a wall while wearing jeans, boots, and a sweater, looking. out at a large model of a virus

Germaphobia is the persistent and excessive fear of germs. As you know, we call them germophobic. Anxiety and germaphobia are inextricably connected but not necessarily the same diagnosis. So, what crosses the line between someone who is a germophobe and someone who is a little anxious about germs?

If we look at history, we can see that germs can wipe out entire populations. Besides global warming, another end-of-the-world scenario is an uncontrollable pandemic. But, so far, no pandemic has been even close to exterminating us. So far, we were able to control the virus and its expansion. And so far, we had our happy ending: humanity continued to prevail.

Around the 1920s, yellow fever created anxiety about hot humid weather and its mosquitos. Yet, with ingenuity, fish were used to eat the mosquitos’ eggs. Eventually, a vaccine was developed, and the disease was controlled up to this day. H.I.V is labeled as a pandemic and was controlled with medicines.

It’s not a death sentence anymore and people continue to live with the disease. Anthrax was controlled with an antibiotic named Cipro. Throughout history, there have been many deadly pandemics, including the swine flu and the avian flu, but nothing was more serious than the Spanish influenza of 1918. It killed at least 20 million people. Still, after this pandemic faded away, the homo sapiens continued to survive and rule the world.

During these historical pandemics, humans were witnessing their loved ones getting sick and dying. Naturally, the fear of invisible murderer pathogens began to possess people. However, some level of anxiety during a pandemic is normal. It can help.

Some level of anxiety reminds us to protect ourselves by being prepared. For example, using antibacterial soaps. For anxious people, these products not only promise to clean your hands but promise to destroy the troublesome germs. This is a serious growing business. In 1998, the profit for soap was about $400 million. It’s much higher now due to the pandemic.

A person washing their hands with soap under a faucet of running water
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According to the DSM-5, anxiety is the anticipation of the future while fear is an emotional response to threat. The latter creates a fight or flight response while anxiety is associated with hypervigilance about imminent danger. Avoiding touching doorknobs, public surfaces, using sanitizers, washing groceries, and keeping a distance from strangers without masks are all part of being cautious during these times. This doesn’t make you a person with a serious anxiety problem or a germophobe. Germaphobia occurs when there is excessive fear and anxiety with the thought of coming into contact with germs.

Under the DSM-5, Germaphobia would be under the category of specific phobia. Like the extreme fear of spiders or heights, there is a severe fear of germs. Phobias are usually characterized by overestimating the enemy. A germophobic will not be satisfied with only washing hands while singing the Happy Birthday song. Other criteria presented in the DSM-5 is avoidance. Germaphobia will cause impairment in different areas of functioning such as work or social activities.

For example, a woman who misses her meeting at work due to persistent handwashing in a public bathroom where she takes a long period of time attempting not to touch anything. Certainly, so far, we can’t stop pandemics from originating in some parts of the world, but we can learn to cope with the extreme fear of germs or germaphobia.

These are three ways you can alleviate germaphobia:

1. Be positive and hopeful

People with severe anxiety think catastrophically. Under any circumstances in which they are exposed to their fear, they will think of the worst possible scenario. A person with germaphobia will avoid any uncomfortable situation completely because of “catastrophic” and invasive thoughts. When we find ourselves in a situation that causes us anxiety, it’s important to have a positive attitude. When our brains receive this signal, it becomes easier to manage anxiety. Also, people with germaphobia are hopeless about the future. Therefore, they would rather avoid being exposed to their fear at all. Being hopeful can help us recognize that we have control of the situation by having a plan and taking care of ourselves. But, most of all, being hopeful makes us realize that not everything has negative outcomes. Catastrophic thoughts are irrational and untrue.

A woman in bed, wearing a grey sweater and shorts, with her hands over her eyes, under her covers, crying
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2. Meditate

Due to the rates for mental disorders in the western world being high, many Americans now turn to meditation for mental health. Even though mediation comes from Buddhism, any religion is welcomed to practice it. Throughout the years, meditation has become universal and people with different religious backgrounds practice it. The purpose of meditation is to allow you to look deep into yourself and stay in the present. It’s a way to connect with your deeper self. Spending that time of self-compassion will allow you to understand better your anxiety which leads to manage it better. Buddhism has harsh truths like pain is inevitable. This religion believes that life is suffering and accepting emotional pain will help you alleviate it. Instead of avoiding suffering, learn to deal with it. When you begin to surrender to it, you begin to accept it. The battle against fear and pain is over: Nirvana.

A woman in a green and white patterned shirt and pants, sitting on a dock on a body of water, in a yoga pose
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3. Stay grounded in the present

People with germaphobia and severe anxiety tend to live in the future. They are constantly vigilant of their present foreseeing a catastrophic future when exposed to their phobia. This will trigger irrational thoughts about suffering when it’s not happening. In other words, germophobes will suffer before something happens or they will suffer for what will never happen. It’s important to shift your mind to the present and stay grounded in it. Tell the catastrophic mind: “I am here, I am safe.” And, when you aren’t as safe as you would rather be, say: “I am still here breathing; this too will pass, and I’ll be OK.”

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How the Coronavirus is Shaping the 2020 Election

Ian Wentzlaff

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Elderly woman in a white long sleeve shirt, mask, carrying a black purse with her as she walks outside

2020, a year already destined to be recorded as one of the most bizarre times in recent history, adds another layer of intrigue in November: the presidential election will take place in the midst of a deadly pandemic sweeping across the globe.

Voters across the country are entering uncharted territory this fall; individual health concerns about contracting coronavirus will lead many to vote by mail for the first time.

Coronavirus has afflicted nearly every part of the world, but the United States in particular has felt its ravaging effects. The U.S. has accounted for over 200 thousand of the 1.15 million deaths related to coronavirus worldwide.

Another way of thinking about this: one out of every five people killed by the virus was an American citizen. This statistic weighs heavily on the minds of voters in the upcoming election, as the decision to vote traditionally or by mail needs to be made.

Microscopic image focused on a virus
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There is much confusion surrounding mail-in ballots, and rumors about the likelihood of voter fraud abound. The reality is that voter fraud of any kind is extremely rare in the United States. This extends to mail-in voting.

Causing more confoundment is the fact that voting regulations vary from state to state. Places like Hawaii, where mail-in ballots have been the norm for some time, will presumably have little trouble implementing this method again in this election.

On the flip side, a state like Alabama that only allows voters to register for absentee ballots may find the increased number of mailed-in votes difficult to process.

Yet another wrinkle in the mail-in ballot complex is the necessitation of so-called secrecy envelopes that are required by some states. Further, any vote cast via mail without a said envelope, which are sometimes called “naked ballots,” may not be counted.

However, the need for secrecy envelopes ceased to exist when mail-in ballots began being counted at a separate location from the public polling places, thus eliminating the need for secrecy.

These regulations may deter some voters from opting for a mail-in ballot this election. However, others may fear that the risk of contracting a deadly virus is too great at public polling locations, where thousands of people will congregate.

The virus’s recent resurgence in Europe has led many experts to predict that the United States will also see a spike in the number of cases very soon. This second wave may hit just in time for the election, and that unfortunate timing only adds to the existing fears of voters.

In this upcoming election, no matter which political party you align with or which candidate you prefer in the White House, vote in whichever way makes you the most comfortable.

If the risk of contracting coronavirus frightens you, know that all states are required to allow absentee ballots, and most states support general mail-in voting. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s voting regulations, and most importantly: VOTE!

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