I think about what life would have been like if my college experience was interrupted by something like COVID-19, as it is for so many students right now across the country. College was an important part of my life for so many reasons, and to have it snatched away so abruptly for an unknown timeframe would have been so devastating.
According to an April survey conducted by the nonprofit, Active Minds, one in five college students out of more than 2,000 reported that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic began. I do not find the research surprising, as so much adjusting has been forced on them, and so much is still yet to be known. Students who had already been struggling with anxiety may now have an additional layer to deal with as a result of COVID-19. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder may be fearful when leaving their residence. With social ties significantly reduced, students with depression may become more withdrawn. Many college students may be facing financial hardships as well, with job layoffs or difficulty returning to a less-than-ideal home life. There is also the transition to an online learning environment.
Accepting the current situation and moving forward can be a challenge right now. Try to focus on things that can be controlled, like taking care of mental health, making sleep a priority and avoiding information about the pandemic that may not be factual or can cause more anxiety. Parents and other support persons can help college students by paying attention to symptoms like withdrawal and loss of interest in activities. Asking how they are doing can go a long way as well, even if they express feeling fine.
If you are a college student and in need of support from the impact of COVID-19, the clinicians at Nourish Your Mind are here for you.
Gina Fiorella, LMSW