Addressing mental health issues caused by COVID-19

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Sam Rush/NW

As students, faculty, and staff prepare for the current semester, COVID-19 continues to remain present in everyday life, resulting in an entirely unique outcome for how the school year will operate. 

COVID-19 has contributed to a surge in mental health problems due to quarantine restrictions and lack of socializing. Depression, anxiety and suicide rates have also spiked because of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many students who were unable to leave their homes due to protocols have found their own mental health suffering. NMU has many resources for those on and off campus who are having trouble coping with the current pandemic.

With on-campus living, resident advisors (RA), resident directors (RD) and community advisors are great resources to help cope with the current pandemic. Sabrina Kaminski, senior psychology major and RA of Hunt Hall, shares how RAs communicate with their residents about mental health topics.

“We try our best to help in just about every aspect when it comes to mental health. When residents approach us in terms of serious mental health issues we involve our RD. By involving the RD, they can provide the necessary on and off-campus resources for students. I always try to reassure my residents to know that they can talk to me about anything,” Kaminski said. “Anything they talk to me about is confidential. Whenever a resident comes to talk to me, especially if it is a heavy topic, I’m glad to be able to be their person they feel comfortable with. Even if it’s a lighter topic, I love being able to be the person that they look forward to telling about their day, a date, an exam, worries, etc.”

RAs are an exceptional resource for students who need support. They are trained to work with students through their problems while also being their friends. Kaminski encourages students to take time to make a genuine connection with someone and to not be concerned about how many friends they have, but the quality of the friendships.

“It seems as though people reflect on how many friends they’ve made, but it’s important to remind yourself that people get to know others at different rates. Be able to recognize victories, especially the small ones, those are more frequent and not as frequently noticed,” Kaminski said.

Friendships can be substantial support during a difficult time, but it is important to focus on personal matters as well. The CDC advises those who are suffering from mental health issues due to the pandemic, to take care of yourself and family first.

“Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself. Helping others cope with their stress, such as by providing social support, can also make your community stronger. During times of increased social distancing, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health,” according to the CDC.

The pandemic has introduced many unforeseen challenges for students.  An overabundance of time can be overwhelming, and can often leave individuals with uncertainty as to how to manage their own health. Junior forensic anthropology major Alyssa Wilkinson shares how she coped with her own mental health.

“My mental health has drastically changed since the start of the pandemic, but I think as I have adjusted to the current events it has increasingly gotten easier,” Wilkinsion said in an email. “At first I was extremely overwhelmed with all the uncertainty. Some things I did to overcome this was try to keep my home life the same, such as continuing to draw, play video games, and always keep in touch with close friends.”

Wilkinson also shared that coming back to school has helped her find motivation and she believes that NMU is working hard to keep students safe.

Other resources on campus include the NMU Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS). CCS are free for students and offer an array of choices for students struggling with mental health. Students can also set up one-on-one counseling appointments with members of their staff.

“Students receiving individual counseling sessions meet with their counselor for one to six sessions, but many for shorter and some for longer. Many students find participation in personal counseling beneficial for addressing their personal goals,” according to the CCS website.

The CCS has also released a PDF regarding stress during COVID-19. The information serves as a resource for students who have suffered mentally because of the pandemic.

“Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and stay focused on what the situation actually is, rather than the worst-case-scenario. It can be helpful to shift your focus to things within your control rather than things outside your control,” according to the CCS.

More information about the CCS’ recommendations can be found at https://www.nmu.edu/counselingandconsultation/sites/DrupalCounselingAndConsultation/files/UserFiles/Managing_Concerns_and_Emotions_During_COVID-19_1.pdf