Mental health during the pandemic

Many aspects of this pandemic world are affecting people’s mental health. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. No matter what you’re opinions are on how we handle the containment of the disease, this global pandemic has caused stress on everyone from all walks of life. Whether you already have a mental illness or not, the pandemic has made many anxious or depressed due to job situations, isolation, and worries of safety.

The CDC reported in June that around 40% of Americans reported struggling with their mental health. Along with this, 13% had started or increased their abuse of substances. One of the groups hit hardest with anxiety and depression during the pandemic is young adults, specifically college age adults.

Alexis Schreiber, the Co-President of the Active Minds club on campus, has said that most of the struggles that are being seen in 2020 are related to dealing with uncertainty and having to manage the effects of isolation.

“People are looking for answers where there’s not necessarily any to be found,” said Schreiber. “People don’t thrive in a state of uncertainty.”

Many college students are struggling because their expectation of their ideal college experience and the actual reality has been so different. Along with that, students are living away from home for the first time and are trying to make new friends, but having to be completely virtual has really impacted both of those things.

Charlene Hanisch Theisen, a licensed social worker who works as a therapist at SCSU, said that it’s a huge concern for not only herself but her coworkers on how to keep up with the needs of their students at this time. She said that she’s seen “a lot of increased depression and anxiety, struggles with social isolation, financial strain, relationship issues, and fear of one’s own safety.”

Both Theisen and Schreiber talked of the struggles of having to go virtual during a year as complex and demanding as 2020. They said that being virtual for things like therapy can definitely be a barrier for those who aren’t comfortable with programs like Zoom, but they can also be a positive for those who wouldn’t feel comfortable meeting in-person.

A good example of this is that Schreiber said the Veterans Resource Center has said that less students have been coming in person to talk about resources available, but that those who are coming in are in dire need of help. Since Fall semester began the VRC has reported 294 students contact them virtually via phone/email/text/etc, and 282 in-person visits.

“Mental health is critical for the success of all students so we take this topic quite serious” Zachary Mangas, the Director of the Veterans Resource Center, said. “Having places of support available for our students is especially important during this time and helps them remain resilient throughout their academic pursuit.”

“It’s important for students to know that they’re not along in how they’re feeling,” said Samantha Yang, a graduate co-advisor for Active Minds.

The Active Minds club on campus is going into it’s tenth year here on campus and is trying to decrease the stigma around the conversation surrounding mental health. Schreiber added that everyone has mental health and that everybody will have moments in their life where they will experience suffering, so even if you personally don’t have a mental illness you know someone who does.

“By having those conversations and by breaking that stigma you can prevent some of that suffering and save lives,” said Schreiber.

The Active Minds club is meeting virtually on Fridays this semester and encourages those who want to get involved to email them at activeminds@stcloudstate.edu.

Along with clubs, there are lots of resources for students to participate in. There is a new virtual program titled “Finding Your Calm” which meets on Mondays and Wednesdays and focuses on calming strategies, meditation, and relaxation. There is also a bi-weekly Active Minds podcast, “Mental Health Mondays”, that can be found on their social media platforms and on YouTube.

There is also Peer Wellness coaching available.

“It’s completely free,” said Yang. “And a great resource for students who might not be ready for counseling yet or those who might not know what they want to talk about.”

If you know anyone in need of immediate mental health services, there is an emergency service available that is in-person and socially distanced. All you have to do is call 320-308-3171. As always, you can also schedule an appointment with a therapist by requesting an appointment online or calling the Counseling & Psychological Services office.

2020 has been a very isolating year but many students are connecting virtually more than ever. Although we may be alone for now, we are alone together.

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Sydney Wolf

Sydney is a Mass Communications major with a focus in Creative Media Production and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric Studies and will be graduating in Spring of 2021. Sydney is UTVS News Director and the music director at KVSC. She is also a nationally qualified speaker on the speech and debate team. In her free time she loves to play music, watch SCSU hockey games, and play dorky video games with her friends. Connect with her on social media @sydneyisawolf.

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