Across the country, another year of college is in full swing. Although some schools have gone to strictly virtual learning in an effort to control infection spread among their students, many are combining this option with in-person classes, thus creating more potential for exposure to the virus. Also, many campuses are dealing with students who flaunt social distancing guidelines and gather for parties, which spreads it even more. While many young people were eager to get back to school after being fairly isolated during the summer, these seemingly reckless situations are negatively affecting the mental health of many students.
When the American College Health Association collected information for their Spring, 2020, National College Health Assessment, an average of 49.6 percent of the 50, 307 respondents reported moderate stress levels. Another 24.9 percent said they were experiencing high levels of stress – and that survey only included schools who had begun their data collection prior to March 16, 2020, when many states began shutting down. Today, those numbers are much higher.
In fact, according to a study done at nine public research universities across the U. S. and led in part by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), the incidence of major depressive disorder has more than doubled since Spring, 2019.
There are several factors which can indicate whether your college student is suffering from anxiety. They may not have all these symptoms or they may only have a couple, so it’s important to talk to your child if they are experiencing some of these concerns.
- Problems concentrating on coursework (or in general)
- Distress about their own health or the health of loved ones
- Changes in eating patterns
- Trouble sleeping
- An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
- A worsening of mental health conditions they may already have
There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:
- Headaches or an increase in migraines
- Shortness of breath or a rapid heartbeat
- Nausea and sweating
- Muscle tension
Self-Care For Student’s Mental Health
To help reduce the mental health aspect of college life during the pandemic, we recommend the following:
- Know that this is temporary. At some point, we’ll have a vaccine and the pandemic will ease.
- Meanwhile, stay connected with friends and family, either in person while safely social distancing or via a video application, such as Zoom or Skype.
- Look for campus support groups, which will help them feel less alone.
- Maintain a routine. As much as possible, they should try to get up or go to sleep on a schedule, eat at regular mealtimes, do coursework on a schedule, etc.
- Set daily goals for completing assignments.
- Set aside time to get outside. Getting fresh air, a change of scenery, and endorphin-releasing exercise can help to rejuvenate the mind.
- Make time every day to do something they enjoy. It can be as simple as carving out time to read, do yoga or meditate, or write in a journal.
- Limit online and social media time to avoid being sucked into the gloomy headlines that are so prevalent right now.
- Know that it is okay to feel scared or angry, homesick, sad or anxious. But they should tell someone how they are feeling and if they seem to be feeling worse.
If these self-care measures aren’t enough to help your student with their distress, suggest they reach out to their campus’ psychological services. The campus counseling center likely can help through phone, telehealth or video platforms. This eliminates the need for your child to visit the center in-person.
If your college student is struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic, we also can help. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email The Center today.