Mental health challenges magnified during pandemic

Office of Counseling Services is located inside the Center for Access and Student Success. Photo by Chloe Moody.

There’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone, especially when it comes to their mental health.

With the spring semester beginning almost two weeks ago at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, the majority of classes are still being taught remotely, which makes it harder for students to stay on track.

FAMU counselor  Alicia Jackson says more students have been stopping by the Office of Counseling Services.

“As with all of us, the pandemic has been very difficult to navigate,” Jackson said. “For most students, change in the normal everyday living has changed. This means there is limited socializing with others. This can be socially isolating.”

Other factors from online learning to financial issues may contribute to increased mental health struggles.

“If you are not an online learner, the past semesters have been very difficult,” Jackson said. “In addition, families of students affected by COVID-19 are struggling financially. Finally, students may be returning to homes that were dysfunctional.”

Even though the pandemic has brought on more obstacles, students have learned to cope with the hand they’ve been dealt.

“Adjusting is a better word to describe how our students are doing,” Jackson said. “Adjustment can be hard and it takes time to get used to the change that is going on right now. There are students who were predisposed to mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. Thus, the added stress of adjusting has made some students experience symptoms more than usual.”

A survey conducted by the NASPA reports that one in five students is constantly anxious about the pandemic. Students have also spent more time on schoolwork and less time sleeping and exercising, the survey reported.

The events that have happened nationally throughout the last 10 months have contributed to emotional distress.

“If we also consider the political and social environment that has occurred along with the pandemic, then we can also see that students have experienced an increase of fear, anger, anxiety and sadness about the uncertainty of the world at large,” Jackson said.

Senior biology pre-med student Macee Boyd had to adjust to the drastic changes that came with the pandemic.

“At first I was very isolated and unmotivated, so I think the pandemic era pushed me into a mild depression,” Boyd said. “I’m someone who really needs structure and dealing with so much uncertainty really made me anxious and unhappy.”

Boyd says creating a schedule has been helpful during the pandemic.

“I get up earlier now and take time to plan my day,” Boyd said. “I am taking seven classes as well as working and trying to get a certification I need for grad school.”

Boyd also started working out again as a way to relieve stress.

Sophomore music education student Kahree Hill says taking online classes has been challenging for him mentally.

“My mental health slightly declined during the pandemic,” Hill said. “College itself is already a struggle, but for me, as a music major especially, we take on seven to nine classes a semester. I was already not a fan of online classes, so having to try to learn and connect with people across Zoom was not exciting for me and it gets really exhausting.”

Hill says focusing on school and other passions has helped him throughout the pandemic.

“I dealt with that by dabbling in my other interests and trying to practice or binge watch shows to make time fly,” Hill said. “I also had to become a lot more organized in order to not let my grades slip and try to eliminate the at-home distractions we all have.”