Mental Health and COVID-19

Why raising awareness is more important than ever

by Zach Krauss

Few phenomena have changed the world like the COVID-19 pandemic. At Cedarville, the educational experience has shifted from an almost exclusively in-person learning format to a context in which online learning is commonplace, especially for students who are feeling unwell.

Students are now more stressed than ever about not only their health, but also the health of those around them. There is an everpresent chance of the pandemic affecting a student’s ability to complete in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. What’s more, the loss of breaks and tension-relieving activities add to the pressure, both personally and academically. All these quick and unprecedented changes have created fear and anxiety in many students.

Hannah Lehman, a junior social work major, said that part of the way that COVID-19 is affecting students is by adding new levels of stress to the already stressful life of a college student.

“I think that students have had all new levels of stress added to them and the same amount, if not more, expectation in classes,” Lehman said. “Also, with COVID becoming political, it’s not easy to navigate and communicate our feelings with those around us.”

Biology professor Dr. Heather Kuruvilla said that there have been substantial increases in substance abuse and suicide attempts during lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, especially among the college-age population. The rapid change and imminent uncertainty exacerbate mental health conditions that already exist, as well as increasing worry and stress for even healthy people.

“The fact that we still have to be so careful with the looming threat of potential shutdowns is certainly contributing to anxiety,” Kuruvilla said.

Kuruvilla encouraged students to realize that though the world has changed and things are more difficult to navigate than ever, the Lord is still on the throne and has everything in His hands.

Psychology professor Betsy Linnell said that it appears that students across the country have decided to react to the pressure of the pandemic in a variety of ways.

“Some want to prove their invincibility and host parties despite knowing they have tested positive,” Linnell said. “Meanwhile, others feel anxiety over even going to classes.”

However, Linnell said she feels the response of students at Cedarville is slightly different. She attributes this to the different source of hope, Jesus Christ.

“I have always said we have the best students anywhere, and this past year has shown it,” Linnell said. “Our students do their best to follow protocols, and they care about each other rather than just themselves.”

Pharmacy professor Dr. Aleda Chen said that part of what makes COVID challenging is that it takes students out of community with our fellow believers.

“God created us to be in community with one another,” Chen said. “Isolation, inability to see facial expression, and social distancing all contribute to a rising mental health crisis.”

Chen expressed the need for mental health awareness during these ever-changing times, expressing that being intentional and caring for others is more important now than it ever has been in the past.

“We should encourage one another to seek help, and find ways to build community even in these challenging times,” Chen said.

Counseling services are available on campus for free to all students. Several opportunities for biblical counseling exist off campus in the surrounding community as well.

Zach Krauss is a second-year student in the pharmacy graduate program who serves as an on-campus journalist and photographer for Cedars. He is interested in mental health advocacy and wants to go into clinical pharmacy some day.

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