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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

COVID and the College Mental Health Crisis

If you’re feeling lonely and isolated and you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, know that you don’t have to go through this alone. Here are some resources that will help you to feel supported again: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to speakingofsuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.


College students have been in a state of limbo since the pandemic began back in 2019. The college experience has been constantly shifting—sometimes online, sometimes in person, sometimes in total isolation. It’s no wonder that colleges are experiencing a serious mental health crisis, with students having to navigate the stressors and challenges of college life, all while doing so in a global pandemic.


For the past couple of years, students have been encouraged to stay isolated as much as they can and hundreds of events have been canceled. And unfortunately, many colleges just don’t have the necessary resources to support their student's mental health to a good enough standard.


Some schools have decided to start the spring semester online for the first few weeks or delay the start of school altogether due to the omicron variant. And while maintaining the spread of covid is of course, incredibly important, so is our student's mental health, and colleges need to do better to support them.


According to national data collected by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, "loneliness or isolation, along with loss of motivation or focus, are among the top concerns of college students who have sought counseling during the pandemic.”


So what are the main signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety to be aware of in yourself and in others?


Signs and Symptoms of Depression


The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. The most common symptoms that people experience are persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy.


The symptoms of depression fall into three categories: psychological symptoms, physical symptoms, and social symptoms.


Psychological symptoms may include:

  • continuous low mood or sadness

  • feeling hopeless and helpless

  • having low self-esteem

  • feeling irritable and intolerant of others

  • having no motivation or interest in things

  • finding it difficult to make decisions

  • not getting any enjoyment out of life

  • feeling anxious or worried

  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself


Physical symptoms may include:

  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual

  • changes in appetite or weight

  • lack of energy

  • disturbed sleep


Social symptoms may include:

  • avoiding contact with friends and/or family

  • taking part in fewer social activities

  • neglecting your hobbies and interests

  • having difficulties in your relationships


While it’s unlikely that you will experience all of the above symptoms, you may find yourself experiencing a few from each category, and your depression might look totally different from someone else’s.


Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect people both physically and mentally and it is common to experience both depression and anxiety together, however, this is not always the case. Symptoms of anxiety can be both psychological and physical.


Psychological symptoms may include:

  • restlessness

  • feeling a sense of dread

  • feeling constantly "on edge"

  • difficulty concentrating

  • irritability


Physical symptoms may include:

  • dizziness

  • tiredness

  • muscle aches and tension

  • trembling or shaking

  • dry mouth

  • excessive sweating

  • shortness of breath

  • stomach ache

  • feeling sick

  • headache

  • Insomnia


These symptoms of anxiety can lead people to withdraw from spending time with their family and/or friends in order to avoid these feelings of anxiety.


What to do if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms


If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, the most important thing to do is to speak to someone. That might be a parent, a friend, a lecturer, or a college staff member. It can be anyone, as long as you trust them and trust that they will support you through this difficult time in your life. Opening up and sharing how you are feeling with someone other than yourself is the first step in the path back towards health and happiness.


According to Daniel Eisenberg, a professor at U.C.L.A. and a principal investigator of the Healthy Minds Study, the rate of depression, anxiety, and serious thoughts of suicide has doubled among college students over the past decade. And the pandemic has certainly played a significant role in those increases.


As a response to this ongoing mental health crisis, Triangle Cognitive therapy will be offering group therapy sessions for college students and young adults starting in March 2022. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety and are looking for some support, email us at therapyisgoodforyou@gmail.com.


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