Colleges preparing for mental health issues associated with pandemic, attention on racism

Posted at 3:20 PM, Jul 02, 2020

Growing mental health issues among college students were already a concern. Now, schools are preparing for what comes next in the fall, because of both the pandemic and also the renewed attention on racism in our country.

About 24% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems last year, according to a study by the American College Health Association. That's up from about 10% a decade earlier. It's a similar trend among the number of students diagnosed with or treated for depression.

“We're expecting those statistics to really skyrocket in terms of students just feeling a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety, a lot of despair with what has been going on and what things look like perhaps for them,” said Dr. Joy Himmel, an American College Health Association fellow.

Himmel is a member of the COVID-19 task force for the American College Health Association. She says schools have already shifted to doing more remote telehealth sessions for mental health. But it has been a challenge in some places because of licensing across state lines.

A lot of states have done waivers to allow this. Himmel is concerned about when states of emergency are lifted, and these waivers won't be there anymore. She says it will also be important to focus particularly on freshmen.

“One of the things that I think builds camaraderie, builds enthusiasm and energy for students is that bonding with fellow students,” said Himmel. “We're very social in terms of our humanness and we need each other and so it's very important to really look at physical distancing, not social distancing and create social caveats for students to connect.”

Counseling staff at Howard University tell the Wall Street Journal they're planning an online program for first year students to address this issue of a freshman year without the typical experiences.

Counseling staff members at Tulsa Community College say they're doing trauma training now to be prepared to help students.

At Pace University, they've been doing online mental wellness workshops for students.