By Staff Writer Busola Awobode
As the COVID 19 pandemic continues to restructure our world, many individuals across the globe struggle to adjust to their new realities. College students have been hit especially hard as the pandemic has forced radical transformations to their academic and personal lives. Due to this many college students are worse off both physically and mentally. They are reporting higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness that affect their well-being and their performance in school. With more than 22 million young individuals enrolled in US colleges and universities, it is important to examine how deeply this is impacting our students and perhaps work to accommodate the issues they may be facing and destigmatize mental health issues.
A 2021 article put out by the Boston University research site “The Brink” stated that a survey of 33,000 college students across the country demonstrated the effects of COVID 19 on student mental health. 83% of the students surveyed stated that their poor state of mental health negatively impacted their academic performance and half of the students screened positive for depression and anxiety. Two-thirds of these students were also struggling with loneliness and feeling isolated. According to BU researcher Sarah Ketchen Lipson, these numbers are “an all-time high prevalence that reflects the toll of the pandemic and the social distancing necessary to control it.”
Additionally, research conducted by Son et al in 2020 also revealed the state of student mental health. The study revealed that of 195 students surveyed in a large public university, 71% indicated an increase in stress and anxiety. Many participants indicated negative impacts of these struggles on their academics, health and lifestyle-related outcomes. Among the main issues that caused a spike in stress and anxiety were a concern for one’s own health and the health of loved ones (91%), difficulty with concentration (89%), disruption to sleep patterns (86%), increased social isolation (86%) and concerns about academic performance (82%). Some students even recorded depressive and suicidal thoughts as stress and anxiety-inducing factors.
Lower levels of mental health and stability have been linked to lower grade point averages, hindered performance, low levels of retainment and graduation, self-efficacy, and so on. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that each student is aware of and has access to the help they may need. However, it seems students are not getting this support. The 2021 nationwide study co-led by researcher Sarah Ketchen Lipson and published by “The Brink” reveals a big “treatment gap” in the results. This means that students who are struggling with mental health are not receiving any kind of mental health service, support or treatment. They are simply struggling in silence and bearing the detrimental effects of their worsening mental health while juggling school, work, and countless other things.
With all this, it is unsurprising that many students are taking leave from school or dropping out entirely. Those who remain are struggling to keep themselves afloat which often results in poor attendance and lower concentration rates, lower grades and so on. During this time, it is imperative that not only are we kinder to ourselves, but we are more accommodating of others as we all navigate what’s before us.
Students who are struggling with mental health issues on campus can reach out to the university counseling center, or the crisis services which include on and off-campus crisis resources as well as suicide prevention hotlines.