COVID-19 impacting college students’ mental health

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — COVID-19 has given a lot of us time to think about things. For many, those thoughts have turned into anxiety and it’s caused more people to reach out for support.

As a result, college counselors in the Triad have said it has caused an influx of students to be in need of their resources.

“We’re not just struggling with a pandemic that is a public health crisis, we’re also dealing with a pandemic of racial violence and a history of racial violence in our country,” said Jennifer Whitney, UNCG counseling director. “We’re dealing with conflict and political discord and insurrection. Our students are observing in the same way we all are,” she said.

For first year students at North Carolina A&T, like Charrel Speaks, the true college experience is what she was looking forward to.

“COVID really put into perspective how much people have problems and need to talk about it,” Speaks said.

She just transferred to A&T this semester and said COVID has made it harder to meet people.

For NC A&T football player, Zach Yuager, who just arrived fresh out of high school, he understands how much the pandemic has taken from people. He wasn’t able to walk at his graduation.

“Humans need to see other people and be in person, it’s definitely going to be tough,” Yuager said.

The drastic difference in day-to-day life is leading more students than normal to reach out to college counselors.

“We struggle to meet the mental health demand of our students in an individual one-on-one way which is where again, groups and workshops become really important,” Whitney said.

The most common concerns among students at UNCG?

“What we’ve seen with this pandemic is that these concerns have been exasperated. We’ve seen an increase in anxiety, an increase in depression,” Whitney said.

Along with over-eating and binge watching TV to name a few.

“There’s just more time for students to have existential crisis, you know? Who am I, how am I relating to the world, how do I want my future to look?” Whitney said.

She said COVID loneliness has caused some students to take steps backwards when it comes to their healing process too.

“We’ve also seen an increase in return to alcohol or other drugs for students who may have previously been in recovery and then just for students in general who are using other numbing activities,” Whitney said.

The group counseling sessions held virtually have been able to help with the stigma surrounding mental health at UNCG.

“There are silver linings to the pandemic and one of them is yeah, we all struggle with loneliness and that is real and that is valid, and you deserve to be in community,” Whitney said.

She wants people struggling to come to grips with everything going on around them to remember a few things.

“Right now, none of us are at our best, but all of us are doing our best,” she said.

Whitney adds, comparison is the thief of joy, to live in the now and any time you think you need to talk to somebody, you do.

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