The Impact of COVID-19 on College Student Mental Health

By: Anna Grady

Photos: Pixabay, Unsplash, Pexels

“Besides its immense effect on physical wellness, COVID-19 is taking a toll on students’ mental health. To this day, college faculty and professors are doing their best to monitor and support students during the pandemic, despite having to follow COVID-19 safety precautions.”

Besides its immense effect on physical wellness, COVID-19 is taking a toll on students’ mental health. To this day, college faculty and professors are doing their best to monitor and support students during the pandemic, despite having to follow COVID-19 safety precautions. Recent studies have shown that students’ mental wellness is being compromised because of the pandemics’ social and economic consequences which have shown an increase in the prevalence of depression and anxiety (Anderson).

Social connection is crucial for both mental and physical health. COVID-19 has forced college students to social distance and quarantine, which results in feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition to the new transition, students are susceptible to worsening these feelings, especially since their social support systems have been removed. The isolation many students are living through is making them more vulnerable to developing mental health concerns.

Overall, about 20% of college students are experiencing mental health problems because of COVID-19. Due to this, 74% state that they struggle with maintaining a routine, and 38% have trouble with focusing on school and work. On the other hand, 55% of these students do not know where to go to receive help. Many state that they would like more virtual face-to-face time to help with the recent changes to society (Active Minds).

Although social isolation has its negative mental impact on many college students, it is important to practice in order to flatten the curve, also known as, reduce the number of people sick at a time and protect those who are at a higher risk of complications. If the curve flattens, the outbreak will slow down and patients who need critical care will not overwhelm hospitals. Therefore, we will contain the virus and resume back to normal life.

COVID-19 has placed many new college students in unique situations this year. Ryan Pascual, a freshman at Marymount University, expressed how he experienced mental health issues while living at college. He explained that “the new environment and social distancing was difficult to manage”, but “swimming helped to stabilize my mental health”. Ryan went on and explained that being involved in clubs, sports, and reaching out to family and friends helped him get through his first semester.

Managing your mental health during the pandemic is vital to your overall wellness. Although each day comes with its ongoing uncertainty, it is important to address your emotional needs. A few ways you can improve your daily life are by staying physically active, maintaining social connections, getting enough sleep, dealing with stress, and challenging yourself (Morin). Keep in mind to focus on the things you can control in your life, such as earning good grades or how much time you spend on social media.

College is meant to be a place for personal, social, and academic growth, however, colleges have implemented restrictions. Instead, schools are making accommodations so the students can have a successful year. All colleges should implement a safe time and place for regular check-ins with students, provide basic mental health training to professors, provide basic mental health training to all students, provide basic mental health training to parents, and have an easily accessible wellness center on campus (Ghaffari). Having a supportive environment that students know about can make all the difference in their college experience.

All colleges provide clubs for students to join or try out for. Physical activity is significant for decreasing stress, releasing endorphins, and leaves you with a happy and determined mindset. Physically demanding clubs are not the only clubs that are stress relievers. Academic, religious, political, and cultural clubs are great social outlets. Talking about topics that do not relate to your personal life is a good way to redirect your thoughts onto something else. 

Many college professors are reaching out to their students about how they are managing this semester. Knowing when to inform your professors about difficulties you are experiencing is crucial. Emailing your professor before the beginning of the term and talking to your professor once you miss assignments or classes are great ways of keeping your professor aware of your situation (MHA). Although you have taken the first step of telling your professor about why you are struggling, refrain from making up excuses for yourself. Take accountability for your actions and acknowledge that it is your responsibility to make up for them.

A critical part of keeping college students mentally healthy is through family and friends. You can help them by calling or video chatting frequently or creating strategies to avoid stress and anxiety. Those ten-minute phone calls make all the difference. It creates a social outlet that some students may not have in their new lives at college. Let them know that you are there for them and are available to talk whenever they need to, so they can resolve any issue that arises. Studies show that having a supportive relationship is a strong protective factor against mental illnesses and helps to increase mental well-being (Health Hub).

College students who are socially isolated during the pandemic experience mental health issues from losing everyday social connections. Having extended periods of limited social outlets leads to a negative impact on your wellness. By managing your health, knowing options to receive help from at college, and having a strong family and friend support system, can help you get through those tough times. Acknowledging that you need help is the first step to a happy healthy college experience.

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