If you have been struggling with your mental health this school year you are not alone.
Over the past year, students have had to try and manage the balance between keeping up with courses and watching as they live through one historical event after the other. Among the stressors we have been witnessing in our world, many students may be adding mental health struggles to their list.
According to the CDC, a survey of adults over the age of 18 revealed that adults in the age range 18-24 years have been facing an alarming struggle during the pandemic, “Symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, COVID-19–related trauma-and stressor-related disorder, initiation of or increase in substance use to cope with COVID-19–associated stress, and serious suicidal ideation in the previous 30 days were most commonly reported by persons aged 18–24 years; prevalence decreased progressively with age.”
Due to the high stress experienced during the pandemic, Ferris clinical psychology professor Stacey Armstrong said it is more common for students to be struggling with significant mental health problems. Armstrong says that the increase in mental health issues is most likely contributed to the uncertainty, fear and social isolation that comes with COVID-19.
“Mental health, while largely understated, affects just about every aspect of our lives. When we are not mentally healthy, other aspects of our lives tend to suffer, too,” Armstrong said. “For many students, the combination of remote learning (often in an asynchronous format) with developing or exacerbated mental health concerns made it difficult for them to keep up with their academics and maintain the level of course engagement that they desired.”
Ferris developmental psychology professor Penney Nichols-Whitehead agreed that it is difficult for students to be performing their best academically during these times, while also addressing the unique challenges that students have been facing during this pandemic.
“While they may feel invincible in many respects, they also feel the effects of too many demands on their time, not enough sleep and the resulting anxiety that comes from knowing they are not performing at their best, academically,” Nichols-Whitehead said. “Many students feel obligated to contribute financially as much as possible to their families, and because they are in one of the lowest risk groups for getting seriously ill or dying from Covid, they feel compelled to accept the extra hours and shifts their employers are asking them to take on as others are unable to work.”
To help combat struggles with mental health, specifically anxiety, Nichols-Whitehead had words of advice for students.
“If we break things down into smaller packages and identify what we can and cannot control in each, then we can take some action and begin to feel less anxious as we do what we can and let go of what we cannot,” Nichols-Whitehead said. “For example, we cannot stop the pandemic, but we can wear a mask, wash our hands and try to socially distance as much as possible.”
Armstrong also had words of encouragement for those students who find themselves struggling with their mental health this semester.
“I would like to emphasize that it is okay to feel what you are feeling. In fact, there are many students who are feeling something very similar to you,” Armstrong said. “To combat these stressful and difficult times, many find it helpful to maintain a consistent daily routine, practice good sleep hygiene, socialize with others by using video or phone calls with family and/or friends and remember to take breaks and engage in self-care by participating in activities that are relaxing or rejuvenating.”
It is important to remember that you are never alone. There are many resources available to students if their mental health struggles are interfering with their daily tasks or are simply becoming difficult to manage on their own.
List of resources: (provided with help from Stacey Armstrong)
Ferris Personal Counseling Center. Free counseling services provided by the university. Schedule an appointment by calling 231-591-5968 or by emailing ThePCC@nullferris.edu.
The Michigan Stay Well counseling line. The counselors provide free support 24/7 to anyone feeling emotional distress due to the pandemic. Dial 1-888-535-6136 and press “8”.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A 24/7 suicide prevention network that provides service to anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the suicide prevention lifeline. For a crisis of any kind, their Crisis Text Line is also available, by texting ‘HOME’ to 741741.
The Listening Ear. A 12-hour michigan-based crisis hotline that provides support, information, and referral information. The number is (517) 337-1717. The line is active from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
CDC source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm#:~:text=Overall%2C%2040.9%25%20of%20respondents%20reported,increased%20substance%20use%20to%20cope