By Wylie Post, Contributing Writer.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ mental health tremendously. September is National Suicide Awareness month. UMF has created new resources for students to access for mental health concerns as well as having several professors/admin that are always available to talk.
The mental health crisis in college students has skyrocketed since the pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in June 2020, over 40 percent of adults over the age of 18 reported they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse. The suicide attempt rate amongst teen girls has increased by almost 50 percent due to the pandemic, according to researchers from the CDC.
The question is why? Why are the rates so high?
Well, ever since the start of the pandemic, almost all college students have been stripped of using any social skills and experienced a sense of loneliness nobody has ever experienced before. Zoom became the new way of learning, and students had mixed feelings about it. Some are not so happy about remote learning while others found it nice to be alone and not in a physical classroom.
“I feel like everyone spent a lot more time alone than ever before and without the social aspect of it, it definitely made it worse,” UMF sophomore Sidney Belanger said while talking about remote and virtual learning.
Healthcare workers are feeling the same way. “The pandemic in itself has placed stressors on relationship building and it has created an environment for young adults to have very minimal contact,” Lisa Avery, R.N, BSN, practice in-home healthcare said. “Isolation has impacted their sense of self-value and importance, which separates them from having the true college experience.”
Many college students, especially those who just started last year, are experiencing difficulties finding locations on campus and meeting new people because of all the socialization they missed due to COVID protocols.
“They are missing out on opportunities in traditional college life because of social isolation, physical distancing, and masking,” Avery said. “The mask itself causes a separation from human expression, not to say that masking is bad, but human expression and emotions are vital to growing.”
However, UMF has allowed students access to multiple resources to help anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health struggles. SilverCloud is a new system that allows students to learn new coping mechanisms, social skill-building tools, and different self-guided programs for anxiety, depression, etc. The UMF mental health counselors are also a great resource when looking for more personalized treatment/help. Any professor you are comfortable with speaking and opening up to may also be happy to help.
When discussing resources for mental health for college students, there are multiple ways to go about it. Whether that is SilverCloud, licensed counselors, professors, or even a kind friend, these are all appropriate and healthy resources. Some students prefer different types of therapy.
“I listen to podcasts, some about mental growth. They help me have a better perspective on situations and myself,” Belanger said.
“Students need to identify a safe person they can express their feelings to. They need to identify what their safe environment is,” Avery said. “There are healthcare professionals and there are many options online for support groups, therapy, and counseling.”
No matter what you are going through, there are always people who are willing to listen and to help you in any way. With the pandemic slowly starting to fade out, even though it may not feel like it, students are still struggling. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, feel free to talk to someone and find ways that help you the best. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255 and the Maine Statewide Crisis Hotline is 711.