Over the past two years, as COVID-19 has drastically changed the education system and social options for students of all ages, student’s mental health and wellness has been greatly impacted. Students are suffering from depression and anxiety, and the solution goes beyond increased counseling services. Mental health staff at colleges do not have enough resources or employees to handle the sheer number of students searching for help. To address student’s needs, schools are going beyond therapeutic approaches, and looking for the root causes as to why students are feeling so stressed.
The Source of Students’ Stress
A lot of this stress can be directly linked to the virus itself and the anxiety that comes with getting sick and getting others sick. There is also the fact that protocols keep changing, adding even more instability to student's lives, and the reminder that even the experts don’t fully understand the extent of this virus.
The precautions put in place to address COVID-19 have also taken a serious toll on student’s well being. Students are forced to isolate themselves from one another, having many classes held over zoom and wearing masks during in person classes. From an academic standpoint, students have found school itself to be much harder when they cannot engage as freely with peers and teachers.
Students are naturally less engaged during class time, so have a harder time retaining information. Then, with fewer personal relationships and social interactions outside of the classroom, it is more difficult for students to help each other understand academic materials. Many students feel left to their own devices and alone in their suffering, as there is no community in place to share student’s experiences. On top of these stressors, there have been a number of suicides, specifically among colleges, since the start of the pandemic, adding more trauma and tragedy to the students’ experiences.
How Schools Are Trying to Help
A lot of students are struggling from the effects of COVID-19 and need help, more than just therapy alone. A sense of community is very important for personal wellness. The pandemic has made it very difficult for students to engage with their community and feel a sense of belonging and support. Schools have been trying to encourage students to engage in their community in a number of creative ways, such as holding student-led programs to bring people together outside of school, or providing gift cards to local coffee shops so that students are encouraged to engage with one another in spaces outside of school or home. These strides can be especially helpful, as many students feel out of practice socially, having undergone multiple years of schooling in quarantine.
Schools are also putting in place more academic and financial resources to help alleviate some of the pressure on students to be equally as high achieving during such turbulent times. Overall, it is important to recognize the impact of COVID-19 on students and the many ways it has made their lives harder to manage. It is important to let students know that it’s okay to be experiencing negative emotions and that there are available resources to help them. These students are experiencing great disappointment and loss, and for good reason too.