Colleges and universities across the globe have closed campuses and moved instruction online in an attempt to stop community spread of the novel coronavirus.
Many students find themselves back home with family, quarantining while their campuses remain physically shut down. Others may be out of work and worrying about finances on top of attending online classes. Still others are international students who might not be able to return home.
According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, many people experience psychological distress resulting from repeated media exposure to the crisis.
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“It’s a public health paradox that has been identified during and in the aftermath of other collective stressors, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, UCI professor of psychological science. “In the case of the current coronavirus, people may perceive it as higher in risk because it’s novel, compared to other viruses such as the more common influenza. This can increase worry that may be disproportionate in terms of the actual chance of contracting the illness.”
In a paper published online in the journal Health Psychology, Silver and co-authors from the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing – Dana Rose Garfin, assistant adjunct professor, and E. Alison Holman, associate professor – describe how media exposure during a shared trauma can amplify negative public health consequences.
These concerns and sudden changes combine to cause students varying degrees of mental stress. It’s important for family members, peers, and campus faculty and mental health providers who are in touch with students virtually to use available resources that calm, reassure, and promote wellness.
“Students are being removed from their daily routines and thrust into an online school environment that may be very unfamiliar to them. We know from experience that students fare better when the social and emotional supports they have in place are maintained and available, and it’s critical we have a way to provide these services during this time,” says Mark McCabe, Mental Health and Wellness coordinator at Colorado Mountain College. “Our students are accustomed to and comfortable using the YOU platform, so being able to maintain and expand this content during a time of heightened anxiety is a key aspect of our ability to manage the situation.”
“It is extremely important, now more than ever, for students to receive an extra layer of support from their school community. For them, it’s all about their journey, where they are on their journey, and how we as an educational institution, can continue providing the resources and tools they need to continue being successful, even when they’re not in our classrooms or on our campus,” says Maggie Labocki, director of Counseling Services at Nyack College.
“It’s essential for colleges to understand where their students find themselves within this new normal, and provide guidance where needed as they try to figure that out during this time. School is a structure they’re familiar with and we have a unique opportunity to provide a sense of familiarity and normalcy. By conducting one-to-one sessions with students via virtual channels and keeping up with various forms of communication, we’re able to continue forming a human connection with them, which is vital during this period of loneliness and isolation.”
Mental health and counseling professionals at Nyack College are doing their best to keep supporting students as social distancing, quarantines, and closed campuses drag on.
“One way we’re working to support students is by providing free telehealth counseling to both graduate and undergraduate students who are located in the Tri-State area through our counseling center. We’re also hosting two free webinars that will provide tools, guidance, and expertise for students, faculty, and more.
“First, through our counseling center, we will be providing insight and background into normal reactions during these uncertain times. Some of the topics covered will include the helpful ways to identify and deal with stress and anxiety, isolation, grief and loss, and then tips on how to achieve academic success during this time. This webinar will be relevant to the entire Nyack College Community,” Labocki says.”
“Second, through our school of social work, we will be sharing essential clinical skills for telemental health that will benefit mental health counselors, social workers, caretakers and more, who are facing formidable challenges when serving their clients using phones or web conferencing platforms. Dr. Anderson Yoon, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, Certified Cognitive Behavior Therapist and Diplomate and Registered Play Therapist –Supervisor with 20 years of experience in clinical social work and psychotherapy, will be conducting the webinar.”
Mental health resources
Here are some resources to use for anxiety and stress during a health pandemic:
Schools across the U.S. are moving to remote instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to prevent major disruptions for students who rely on in-person sessions, TAO Connect, a digital platform designed to make behavioral health therapy more accessible and effective, is launching its Group Room feature to give clinicians the ability to meet with up to 100 users at a time. This can serve as a replacement for any previous on-campus group sessions and will also help post-practicum students and interns receive their required counseling hours, which are typically in person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, TAO Connect is opening up access to its video-conferencing tools for all customers, which means clinicians can now replace in-person sessions with TAO Connect’s HIPAA-compliant video conferencing tool.
Sharpen, a mental health content and technology company, is immediately releasing its “Sharpen Colleges” mobile and desktop app for free to all college students. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the app content is free until Aug. 31, 2020. Sharpen collaborates with licensed mental health providers to provide students self-help information, techniques, and guidance in a safe environment. Unique to Sharpen, the content is offered in the voices and perspectives of students themselves. As colleges across the country have shifted to virtual classes, many students are feeling more mental and emotional stress than they can handle alone. Depression and anxiety affect college students at a higher rate than the general population, and the new quarantine guidelines make their lives even tougher.
Ten Percent Happier, an app featuring guided meditations, has launched a Coronavirus Sanity Guide featuring meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks to help build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos.
YOU at College delivers content and resources tailored to the needs of each individual student. Whether it’s through data collected on the three lifestyle surveys, called Reality Checks, or from demographic information entered in the user profile, YOU is always customizing itself based on the interactions of users to deliver hyper relevant content across each area.
Hopelab and Grit Digital Health released Nod, a new, free app that helps college students connect during this time of crisis. Nod is an app that uses evidence-based strategies designed to improve student resilience. It provides social connection tips and tools that help students maintain meaningful connections while staying safe and adhering to public health directives.
Meditation has been shown to help people stress less, focus more and even sleep better. Headspace is meditation made simple. The tool will teach users the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.