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.
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.
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.
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.