Mental Health: The Effects of COVID-19 and The Support Students Need

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With long stints away from family and friends, and the pandemic altering day-to-day life dramatically, students are at a higher risk for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Many students are already feeling the mental drain of COVID-19. While some reach out to address these effects, many students are also ignoring their mental health.

The KFF Tracking Poll states that 53% of adults in the United States have reported that COVID-19 has caused a negative impact on their mental health because of worry and stress. The survey was conducted in mid-July and is up 21% from the March report.

Similarly, the CDC has acknowledged the mental toll a pandemic can take and has listed symptoms of stress related to an infectious disease outbreak. These include-“Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.”

Students have different experiences with mental health and with how they deal with it. Caleb Dean, 22, is an undergraduate student who has admitted to feeling the adverse mental effects caused by the pandemic. He admits to feeling one or more of the effects listed by the CDC.

“I was laid off for quite a while, and at that time, I definitely felt anxious," Dean said. "I had trouble sleeping and was constantly worried about this or that. I have felt depressed since then, but it’s not something I would get help for.

When asked why he wouldn’t seek help, Dean said, “I’m just not someone who would get help for that.” 

Many students feel this way, while mental health is becoming a much more normalized topic, it is still stigmatized to a degree. It’s still a challenging topic for a lot of people. Students need to feel comfortable reaching out for help, and they have to be aware of the resources that are at their disposal.

There are several IUPUI resources to take advantage of if a student feels the mental toll from COVID-19 or any other difficulties life has to offer. The Division of Student Affairs has a Counseling and Mental Health Services, CAPS, that can help any IUPUI student who needs it. Reaching out is an essential step in taking care of mental health. While it’s hard to know when to reach out, CAPS offers an online self-screening tool to help students evaluate their health so they can make smart decisions.

Some of the common signs of depression would be loss of interest, increased fatigue, anxiety, irritability, appetite and weight changes, and fluctuating emotions. Annie Sullivan, a student at The University of Southern Indiana, has taken advantage of the resources her school has to offer. She was struggling with anxiety and depression when she reached out. Utilizing the tools her school has to offer, she was able to get the help she needed.

With the help of a counselor and antidepressants, she was able to start feeling a lot better. Sullivan said, “I loved the doctor who helped me, she was very understanding, and after talking and taking the anti-depressants, I started feeling more myself and much more motivated and focused in school.” I knew that I needed help because I started to feel down and on edge. I also started slacking in my school work, and I felt very unmotivated."

It is important to know that there are ways to help anxiety and depression, it is common for people to have a sense of hopelessness, but there is a way to work through it.

Matt Wiery, a senior in Kelly’s School of Business, says that he has been in a mental health decline and that he wasn’t aware IUPUI has resources to help with such things.

“I think teaching people that it is okay to ask for help or reach out and communicate openly with each other for better support and understanding, then we would be able to help prevent or soften the decline of mental health,” Wiery said.

The bottom line is, if students are feeling any type of decline in mental health, they should seek help and work on managing it. A lot can be done at home, with self-care and self-reflection, but a lot of the time, this isn’t enough. Seek professional help and use the resources IUPUI has to offer. 

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