Written By Mili Dhru, Contributing Writer
College students are one of the most susceptible groups of people to suffer from depression; studies performed by organizations such as the American Psychological Association and American College Health Association show that roughly 35% of college students have reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” (NIMH, 2017). Cases of depression have become increasingly prevalent following the COVID-19 pandemic, and student accessibility to mental health services has grown more challenging throughout the year (Redden, 2020).
Efforts to minimize the spread of coronavirus have been implemented at educational institutions across the country, and students have consequently been forced to return home – leaving behind familiar friends, extracurriculars, campus jobs, and organizations that had become a part of their everyday routines.
For some students, being able to spend time at home with family has proven advantageous, but for others who have been driven back to unstable and/or abusive households, the lockdown has only further provoked feelings of depression and anxiety. A 2005 study titled “The impact of depression on the academic productivity of university students” revealed that “diagnosed depression was associated with a 0.49 point, or half a letter grade, decrease in student GPA, while treatment was associated with a protective effect of approximately 0.44 points” (Hysenbegasi, Hass, Rowland, 2005).
Depression evidently takes a massive toll on students’ academic performances, and the transition from in-person to remote learning that students have had to adjust to this year as a result of COVID-19 only facilitates that decline. A survey conducted by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health and the American College Health Association determined that 30.5% of students reported that “their mental health negatively affected their academic performance” on at least six days during the initial month of the pandemic compared to the 21.9% that expressed the same sentiments the previous fall semester of 2019 (Inside Highered, 2020).
In addition to the stress students experience from pushing to achieve and maintain academic success amidst a global pandemic, they also face uncertainty regarding their health and the wellbeing of their loved ones, their futures, and the current and future state of the world they are living in.
University of Michigan Medical School student Nicole Hadler shared a few valuable coping strategies in her article, “Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic as a College Student” (Michigan Medicine, 2020). She advises college students to first acknowledge that feelings of “sadness, anger, frustration, [and] anxiety” are completely valid during this time and encourages communicating these feelings if students feel comfortable in doing so (Michigan Medicine, 2020). She also suggests maintaining a consistent routine–stressing the importance of a nutritious diet and regular physical exercise–and getting between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.
Hadler especially emphasizes the value of virtually socializing with others. In a time where isolation has become the “new normal”, feelings of loneliness and seclusion have become ubiquitous; engaging with friends and family members through phone and video calls can help students stay connected and stimulate social activity. Hadler’s final recommendation for college students is to allow for a daily break time from coursework to focus on a hobby or a personally uplifting and rejuvenating activity (Michigan Medicine, 2020).
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major global impact. During this time of unpredictability and confinement it is vital to be especially mindful of our mental health. Practicing effective coping strategies and reaching out for support and guidance may help college students begin their journeys of healing to overcome the increasing depression and anxiety that has accompanied 2020.
Depression and College Students. (2017, February 6). Retrieved December 27, 2020, from https://infocenter.nimh.nih.gov/pubstatic/NIH%2012-4266/NIH%2012-4266
Hadler, N. (2020, May 04). Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic as a College Student: Psychiatry: Michigan Medicine. Retrieved December 27, 2020, from https://medicine.umich.edu/dept/psychiatry/michigan-psychiatry-resources-covid-19/adults-specific-resources/coping-covid-19-pandemic-college-student
Hysenbegasi, A., Hass, S. L., & Rowland, C. R. (2005). The impact of depression on the academic productivity of university students. The journal of mental health policy and economics, 8(3), 145–151.
Redden, E. (2020, July 13). Survey finds higher prevalence of depression among students and difficulties accessing mental health care during pandemic. Retrieved December 27, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/07/13/survey-finds-higher-prevalence-depression-among-students-and-difficulties-accessing