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COVID-19: The forgotten toll

by Ashley Carrier

COVID-19 started my freshman year in college, now halfway through my junior year we are still dealing with the effects of this pandemic, but many people have forgotten about the toll social isolation caused students mentally. We know how many people the pandemic has killed but what about the people who were mentally affected.

Going into spring break my freshman year of college I was excited to have a week off of classes however when I learned I would not be going back to college due to COVID-19 my life changed forever. Like most people from Shenandoah University, I struggled at first with online classes and the new routine of remote learning. During the lockdown, I struggled with the new learning system and often found myself depressed and discouraged with myself and my education. While my education struggled and so did my mental health, I found myself sleeping through most classes, not communicating with my friends, and becoming easily mad with my family. Many college students nationwide have described the effect social isolation had on their mental health similarly to how I described mine because of the increase of stress COVID-19 caused. Stress can be defined as a response to environmental challenges and threats but can only be subjectively perceived making it hard for others to relate to the feelings making people feel even more lonely during this time.  Social support is one of the best ways to lower the negative events stress can cause. (Mosanya 2020) A study conducted on the impacts of COVID-19 on university students showed that 90% of students have been negatively affected by the nationwide shutdown. (Filho 2021). The study saw a decrease in the normal performance of work due to the stress of COVID-19 showing the correlation between mental and social wellbeing. If you or someone you know is still struggling with the effects Covid-19 had on their college education, there are simple ways to help cope with the additional stresses.

Keeping in contact with a caring adult is one of the most important things a student should do. Many adults in the students’ lives care and are willing to help. The United States government also noticed that college students would be needing extra help to deal with the new stressors and created the CARES Act. The CARES Act provided 14 billion dollars to be distributed to college students to help with college students’ basic needs such as food and housing. Many colleges are now also offering on-campus food pantries to help even more. Another option for students to relieve financial help to lower the stresses of COVID-19 is by applying for emergency aid which can access grants for up to $1,500 for unexpected financial issues for college students. (Daugherty 2020) Shenandoah University also has ways to help Shenandoah students with the mental health options they need. If you go to Shenandoah University’s webpage, which is su.edu, click Experience on the left side and go down to Health & Safety you can find mental health options. Students can make individual appointments by calling the Wilkins Wellness Center at 540-665-4530 or by emailing counseling@su.edu. Shenandoah students are also provided with group sessions that allow students with general advice and skills on how to help common college students with problems like feeling sad or homesick, anxious feelings on exams, performances, or athletics events, and stress management. Students can join online under group sessions or by emailing counseling@su.edu 

Next time you hear your friend talk about the struggles they are experiencing due to the pandemic make sure to listen closely. There might be ways you can help them lower the additional daily stress COVID-19 puts on them as a college student. Many Universities have free or affordable mental health care centers for their students. Shenandoah University students can contact the Wilkins Wellness Center at 540-665-4530 or by emailing counseling@su.edu to set up an appointment. 

Resources

Daugherty, Lindsay, and Drew M. Anderson. “Emergency Covid-19 Aid Helps College Students with Food and Housing.” RAND Corporation, 26 May 2020, https://www.rand.org/blog/2020/05/emergency-covid-19-aid-helps-college-students-with.html.

Leal Filho, Walter, et al. “Impacts of Covid-19 and Social Isolation on Academic Staff and Students at Universities: A Cross-Sectional Study.” BMC Public Health, BioMed Central, 24 June 2021, https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-021-11040-z.

Mosanya, Magdalena. “Buffering Academic Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic Related Social Isolation: Grit and Growth Mindset as Protective Factors against the Impact of Loneliness.” International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, Springer International Publishing, 16 Oct. 2020, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41042-020-00043-7.

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