Students at Salt Lake Community College feel the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health.
The transition from in-person lectures to online delivery, rescheduled exams, and even the postponement of commencement may increase the need for students to be aware of their mental health as the semester comes to a close.
The Globe asked students to share how they are dealing with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic and this is what they said:
“It has been very hard to keep up with schoolwork because of the anxiety and depression. I will forget to do things and then not have the motivation to get them done,” said one IT student. “I find motivation to continue my schoolwork through taking time to do something between assignments like watching YouTube or playing a game. It also helps that the semester is almost over.”
“I’m mentally burnt out to the point where I don’t feel anything,” said chemical engineering major Riley McNealy. “I already had mental health issues impacting my education, so this is just making everything worse.”
“My depression and anxiety are at all-time high, not knowing when this will be over. If I or anyone I care about will get sick.” said Elmer Acevedo-Garcia. “Trying to find motivation to do homework through depression is hard. With added pressure of if I’ll have a job, homework sits on the back burner.”
With a collective of students battling inner depression and anxiety, SLCC strives to continue giving them the help they need.
Departments such as the Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center are still operating remotely to give students the most out of their services.
Peter Moosman, the resource coordinator at the GSSRC, said they provide a group called Write It OUT, which is open to all students.
“Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to connect with others and express ourselves,” said Moosman. “From getting an email with writing prompts and stories for a quick, bi-weekly brain exercise, to an opportunity to engage with others, develop your writing, and build a virtual community. By now, there’s no doubt that many of us are holding in a lot of thoughts, stories, and energy. Now is the time to channel that into positive, creative outlets.”
The GSSRC also hosts Prism: A Queer Support Group on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Students can connect via WebEx.
The effects of the pandemic not only disrupted the routines of SLCC students, but counselors as well.
“The transition initially was daunting and a bit overwhelming,” said Scott Kadera, Ph.D., counseling manager and psychologist at the Center of Health and Counseling. “There was a lot to learn about the technology, legal issues and standards of practice, all in a short amount of time.”
Kadera says the learning curve has been a process, and the shared experience of ambiguity has impacted counseling centers not only in Utah, but across the country.
“Now that we have it all done, the new processes are becoming second nature and the stress has gone down,” said Kadera.
Kadera has also seen declining intakes for counseling services at SLCC.
“As basic physical, health and safety needs become predominant, higher needs might become less urgent for some students and something they want to postpone until later,” said Kadera. “On the other hand, some of our students’ mental health has become worse with all the stressors and changes related to COVID-19 and they are grateful that they can continue to keep getting counseling in whatever format.”
SLCC offers mental health counseling to those in need, but with the current events unfolding, in-person visits have been at a standstill. The Center for Health and Counseling has closed their doors at the South City and Jordan campuses, leaving Taylorsville campus open for telehealth services.
“We are basically providing sessions using two formats. The first is phone therapy, as this was the easiest to set up,” explained Kadera. “The second format which we are still in the processing of fully implementing, is a popular telehealth platform called Doxy.me. This platform is HIPAA compliant, so it has safeguards to ensure that information is not intercepted during the sessions and is kept confidential.”
Students needing an in-person appointment will have to go through a screening conducted over the phone. Only those who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can be seen in-person by a health care provider.
“There is only about a month of school left and that will be over before we know it,” said Kadera, who recommends that students do the following to try to keep a normal routine as much as possible:
- Setting daily goals about what needs to get done.
- Taking necessary breaks and engaging in some kinds of pleasurable activities every day.
- Limiting the amount of time and information spent listening to the news or engaging in social media.
- Practicing good self-care such as going to bed at a reasonable time, getting adequate sleep, eating nutritious meals, and trying to get in sufficient exercise during the week.
The NAMI COVID-19 Resource and Information guide is being recommended to students who may be struggling with the changes. For students seeking help, they can call the Counseling Services at SLCC to set up an appointment.