Coronavirus contributes to mental health slump among students
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States nearly six weeks ago, a mental health crisis has since grown among young people. Graduating college seniors in particular are uncertain as to what their futures might hold.
This pandemic has brought about many new somber feelings for college students as they are faced with this sudden change.
“We are getting a lot of calls about anxiety and from students that have underlying anxiety conditions, like OCD, who have been triggered from the fear of germs or contamination,” Dr. Debra Thompson, clinical psychologist and owner of Thriveworks in Newark, said. “There is also a lot of anxiety in general about getting sick or having their parents get sick.”
Thriveworks is a counseling center located in Newark not far from the university campus that provides numerous mental health services to students and others.
Some students have found it hard to cope with their new reality, some report experiencing a whirlwind of emotions.
“I’ve felt sad, disappointed, angry, anxious, unmotivated and even regret for not taking better advantage of the time I had,” Meghan Isaf, a graduating senior at Elon University said.
The job market is ever-changing, and while many graduating seniors have more than enough qualifications under their belt to begin a career, it can be demanding nonetheless. With the closure of all non-essential business, colleges and universities switching to online learning, and the international market struggling to stay afloat, entry level jobs are hard to come by.
“I am most concerned about how my graduating class will perform in the ‘real world,’” Bella Bruno, a graduating senior at the University of Delaware said. “We are going to be entering the workforce during a recession, making it much harder for everyone to find jobs. I think that this is going to affect us for years down the line.”
Many graduates entering the workforce find themselves moving back to their childhood homes before getting hired, but when an economy-crushing global pandemic is thrown into the mix, some report that it appears nearly impossible to find a job.
“As the job market declines, my motivation to continue applying for a position is also waning,” Ella Strickler, a graduating senior at the University of New Hampshire said.
“The pressure to secure a job by graduation just isn’t there anymore.”
Anxiety surrounding the economy and job market has spiked in some students who are worried. Students are worried about the current affects it is having on their parents and how it will then affect them in the future.
“The economic ramifications will impact students too, because if it impacts their parents economically, a lot of students will not be able to come back to school” Thompson said. “If parents are dipping into their college funds and can’t return to school, their depression rates will rise.”
For most young people, college is a time to experience independence and to flourish after years of hard work away from home. Now, graduates are facing the very real possibility of having to move home for an unknown amount of time. Those who fled campus due to the outbreak in mid-March already found themselves back home.
“The biggest challenge has been trying to accept every day that I’m waking up at home and not at my school,” Strickler said.
Many students are finding it hard to keep productive on a daily basis while being confined to their homes. Some day the restrictions brought on by social distancing has led to loneliness, which only further impacts people.
“No matter what I do, I am feeling unproductive because we are confined to doing everything at home,” Bruno said. “At times I am feeling lonely because I miss being able to see my friends and extended family.”
In addition, most colleges and universities opted to switch to online learning. Many students who prefer physical classroom settings are struggling academically due to the transition.
“There is a large issue surrounding online learning,” Thompson said. “Some students are calling and requesting help for evaluations for possible ADD because they feel like they can’t focus or get their work done.”
Senior year of college, specifically second semester, is a time in which students experience many lasts. It can be a celebration of accomplishment and the commencement of a major life chapter for students. The class of 2020 had this time cut short, and students were not able to say their final goodbyes.
“It was a very sudden change to my lifestyle and stripped me of many final experiences I’d been looking forward to for years,” Isaf said. “It is still difficult to process the reality of the situation and accept the many disappointments.”
The combination of social distancing, online learning, financial fear and general anxieties surrounding the pandemic as a whole has taken a toll on the mental health of college students.
“From student clients that I have, and from what I have heard from other therapists, there has definitely been an exacerbation of symptoms of anxiety and fear of the future,” Thompson said.