By Piper Blake
With mask requirements being mandated, quarantine becoming a lockdown and social distancing becoming isolation, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused peoples’ mental health to decline drastically, and college students have been no exception.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of adults are struggling with mental health during this time even if they have never experienced these issues before.
For more information, check out this interactive visualization on COVID-19 Mental Health Data .
Mental health includes the emotional, psychological and social reactions that a person may have to a situation. When someone is mentally unprepared for a change to their everyday life, these reactions can be extreme.
Triston Wright, a Texas Tech University engineering student, has experienced these repercussions firsthand.
“Throughout the last few months, I have suffered from waves of slight depression due to being isolated from normal life,” said Wright in an email. “This has caused a cycle that has been very difficult to snap out of.”
Due to Texas going into a quarantine turned lockdown in March, university students were sent home from college and were told not to return. This decision made by the schools put a halt to students’ plans for their semester, whether they were graduating or just trying to make it to summer break; it was like the entire world stood still.
Being placed in a position where all of your routines get upended can be a shock to anyone, especially to those who rely on their social interactions and schedules to stay mentally healthy.
Texas State University Alumna Lauren Jurgemeyer is one of those students who relied on her daily schedule to keep her on track. When that was disrupted, it was hard for her to get back to some sort of normalcy.
“When I was still in school, I didn’t feel nearly as affected by the pandemic because I was able to keep a semblance of a routine. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I began to spiral because of the isolation,” said Jurgemeyer.
Stephanie Cutler, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Lauren Atkinson, a Texas Tech University student, both talk about how they have seen students’ mental health impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC reported that how you respond to stress during the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on your background, your social support from family or friends, your financial situation, your health and emotional background, the community you live in, and many other factors.
Finding coping mechanisms for the stress and anxiety felt in times of change is important to maintaining mental health. While some depend on others for support, some have to find different ways of creating stability in their minds and life.
Olympic gymnast and mental health advocate Laurie Hernandez, spoke to Texas State students during this years Common Experience Insight Series.
She stated that finding ways to self sooth like snapping her fingers can help bring her back from triggering moments or anxiety attacks.
“Self-soothing is so important too because no one is going to do it the way you want to do it,” said Hernandez. “You’re the one at the end of the day who’s going to have to go in there and search the way you want to be validated and search the way that you want to care for yourself.”
Nursing major at the University of Arlington, Abbey McGuire, said she turned to puzzles to keep her mind busy. She found that watching TV only affected her more emotionally due to all of the loss of life that was being reported.
“It was a constant battle back and forth in my mind questioning my self-worth, my emotions and my actions. Quarantine was exhausting for me, most of the time I was eating way too much or sleeping so my mind would stop,” said McGuire.
Students’ have so many things they have to deal with like jobs, school work, relationships and expectations, so having more pressure put on them by the stress and worry of an invisible enemy can be overwhelming.
Jurgemeyer said that finding a new routine and direction is what has saved her from her mental health struggles in quarantine. Finding a new routine and a sense of normalcy is the best way to recover from a societal shift like the pandemic has caused.
“COVID-19 destroyed me but at the same time made me learn so much about myself as a person,” said McGuire.
With the times we live in, technical difficulties have become commonplace when communicating virtually. My interview with Stephanie Cutler, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Lauren Atkinson, a Texas Tech University student, starts out with a sample of just how those complications sound. In this story Cutler and Atkinson share their advice to students on how to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.