Another year of college is in full swing across the country. In an effort to control the spread of Covid-19 among their students, some schools have gone to strictly virtual learning. Others, however, are combining this option with in-person classes, which creates a higher chance of exposure to the virus. In addition, many campuses are dealing with students who flaunt social distancing guidelines and gather for parties, which spreads it even more. While many young people were eager to get back to college after being fairly isolated during the summer, we are finding that these seemingly reckless situations are negatively impacting the mental health of many students.
Earlier this year, the American College Health Association collected information for their Spring, 2020, National College Health Assessment. At that time, an average of 49.6 percent of the 50, 307 respondents reported moderate levels of stress. Another 24.9 percent said they were experiencing high levels of stress – and that survey only included schools who had begun their data collection prior to March 16, 2020, when many states began shutting down. Today, those numbers are much higher.
In fact, the results of a study done at nine public research universities across the U. S. and led in part by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), shows the incidence of major depressive disorder among college students has more than doubled since Spring, 2019.
If your college student is suffering from anxiety, they will likely show some emotional or physical symptoms. Keep in mind that they may not have all these symptoms – they may only have a couple of them. It’s important to talk to your child if they are experiencing some of these concerns.
- Problems concentrating on coursework (or in general)
- Distress about their own health or the health of loved ones
- Changes in eating patterns
- Trouble sleeping
- An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
- A worsening of mental health conditions they may already have
There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that may include:
- Muscle tension
- An increase in migraines
- A rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath
Self-Care For Your College Student’s Mental Health
Sometimes taking a little extra time for self-care can help to reduce the mental health aspect of college life during the pandemic. We recommend your student try the following:
- First, remember that the pandemic is temporary. At some point we’ll have a vaccine, the pandemic will ease, and life will become more normal.
- In the meantime, it is good to stay connected with family and friends. Your teen can either do this in person (while safely social distancing) or they can keep in touch through a video application, such as Zoom or Facetime.
- Know that it is okay to feel scared or angry, sad, homesick or anxious. But they should tell someone if they are feeling this way – especially if it has gone on for more than two weeks or if they seem to be feeling worse.
- Limit online and social media time to avoid being sucked into the gloomy headlines that are so prevalent right now.
- Set daily goals for completing assignments and tasks.
- Maintain a routine – as much as possible, they should try to eat at regular mealtimes, get up or go to sleep on a schedule, do coursework on a schedule, etc.
- Make time every day to do something enjoyable. It can be as simple as carving out time to meditate or do yoga, read a book for fun, or write in a journal.
- Set aside time to get outside – fresh air, a change of scenery, and endorphin-releasing exercise can all help to rejuvenate the mind.
- Look into a campus support group, which will help them feel less alone.
If these self-care measures aren’t enough to help your student with their distress, suggest that they reach out to their campus’ psychological services. The campus counseling center likely can help through phone, telehealth or video platforms, eliminating the need for your child to visit the center in-person.
If your college student is struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic, oftentimes it can help to talk with a children’s therapist. We are here with both virtual / online and in-person treatment options.
For more information about how our child psychologists can help your college student deal with anxiety about college life during the pandemic, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.