A VIRAL PANDEMIC MEETS A MENTAL HEALTH EPIDEMIC

Aside from the stresses of college, many students now have additional worries related to the coronavirus. Illustration by Cienna Roget.

At first, it was two weeks of self-quarantine. Then it was two months. Now six months, and no end in sight.

You think you’ve got it rough? Think about students who suffered from mental health issues before the pandemic hit. And those numbers are growing. 

This has been one of the most trying times for students, pre-existing issues or not, new Chapman Director of Student Psychological Counseling Services (SPCS)  Andrew Kami said. “We all carry the heaviness of our lives, some more than others, and many have fallen into these feelings of darkness, fear and sadness.”

As the number of Coronavirus deaths increase, social isolation persists, and Chapman enters another semester of remote learning, both students and staff have had to adapt to issues with declining mental health.

An April 2020 Chapman study led by associate professor of health psychology David Frederick found that 61% of participants experiencing high levels of stress due to the coronavirus. 45% reported “feel down, depressed, or hopeless” and “had feelings of being trapped at home.”

According to Kami, the number of students seeking help and the number of services required have increased since March 2020.

However, students are not the only ones that have been forced to adapt to remote learning. 

Due to increased student needs, SPCS was considered an essential service, and it was one of the first campus organizations to transition online.

When classes are not being conducted over Zoom, students can access mental health services in the Student Psychological Counseling Services building on 410 North Glassell Street. Photo by Lauren DeMaria.

“We developed a working list of states that allowed for us to treat students throughout the US during those early trying times and provided ongoing consultations for students and their families no matter where they were,” Kami said.

Students are now able to access mental health services through a telemedicine service in which counselors conduct appointments over Zoom.

SPCS has also adapted by adding seven new clinicians that can provide counseling services in other languages.

As a result of the changing student needs, SPCS also added services for identity based counseling, substance abuse, intimate partner violence and crisis counseling.

Unlike the university, many students are having trouble adapting to the instability of 2020.

Many students, like senior public relations and advertising major Aly Ashford, have found that the social isolation of quarantine and remote learning has negatively impacted their mental health.

“[The Coronavirus] has definitely taken a toll on my mental well being,” Ashford said. “I am quite extroverted so living alone in my apartment is mentally draining for me. My roommate hasn’t been able to move in due to COVID so I spend most of my days alone at my computer doing work.”

For students with pre-existing mental health issues, the pandemic has caused a relapse of worsening mental health.

“I am in another rough patch right now with online classes,” junior accounting and business administration double major Hannah Tempkin said. “It takes more effort to communicate with people and I need to make sure I make time for fun activities because it is so easy to sit by my computer all day.”

The increase in deaths, illness, and other world events has led many to a spiral of catastrophization, fear, anxiety, and paranoia.

“The isolation and constant bad news has had the biggest impact on my mental health because it feels like there’s no end in sight,” Ashford said. “It’s hard to find things to look forward to when there’s no definite time things are going to get better.”

Although the course of coronavirus pandemic remains uncertain, SPCS continues to see students through appointments scheduled everyday, including weekends, using telemedicine. They also provide digital drop-in hours over Zoom on Fridays from 11:00 AM to 1 PM.

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