Mental Health and COVID-19

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Photo by Colin Lancaster

Over the past year of quarantines, lockdowns, mask mandates, zoom meetings and holidays spent alone, everyone is burned out. Our overall mental health has declined. This past year has taught me that we never really have any idea what the future holds, and the best we can do is take life a day at a time and try to rebuild. 

Around 11:00 a.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020, UD’s former President, Dr. Thomas Hibbs, announced that spring break would be extended due to the novel coronavirus. The student body then believed that we would still return to in-person classes and indeed we did, almost a year later ― just a bit later than expected. 

During the ensuing months of chaos and confusion, everyone experienced the effects of isolation in different ways. While quarantine provided a great opportunity for positive personal growth, it proved to be a downward spiral for others. 

These downward spirals are not isolated events. Those whose mental health declined significantly outnumber those who found it to be an opportunity for improvement. 

40% of adults in the US displayed adverse mental health symptoms as a result of the pandemic according to a CDC survey from June of 2020. The CDC discovered that “the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%).” 

Further, 63% of adults aged 18-24 experienced an anxiety or depressive disorder. The CDC also found that the percentage of adults aged 18-24 who had contemplated suicide within 30 days was about 25% higher among adults 18-24 years old.  

These statistics emphasize that younger people were greatly affected. COVID-19 has, for a long time, left us all with a feeling of uncertainty and ungroundedness ― especially for college students, who are in a period of life which is full of change and development. 

For the many people in school full-time, there is academic pressure brought on by online classes, which are entirely unfamiliar to most. Many found themselves stuck far away from home due to travel restrictions, and some were forced to leave campus to avoid life threatening-illness, facing isolation during the academic year. 

This virus has harmed graduating students as well. Many students lost internship or job opportunities, leaving them uncertain about their employment possibilities. Finding one’s place in the world during a time of disease, isolation and economic uncertainty is a daunting task. 

To those graduating, there is the matter of starting a career in a post-pandemic world. There is an inherent ungroundedness in this particular time of life, a great deal of uncertainty about what the months and years ahead might hold.  

It’s evident that younger people’s mental health would be more greatly affected by the pandemic as this pandemic is likely the milestone event which will shape the rest of their lives. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought much of our day-to-day lives to a grinding halt. The long weeks and months indoors, working and socializing remotely, dragged on and turned into a lifeless blur. 

I am confident most of us can attest to having completely lost track of time as the little habits and routines we all form in our everyday lives fell to pieces. Going forward we must remain grounded and purposeful in order to reintroduce structure into our lives and relationships. 

Here at UD, we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves freely in our faith, study and friendships. We have learned what truly unites us as human beings, and we cannot afford to take such unity for granted. 

The key to recovery is to remain present in the here and now, to focus on immediate and attainable goals while still preparing for the future as best as possible. 

In my own personal experience, there is at least one thing that the pandemic taught me; social skills do not work like riding that old proverbial bicycle. Due to our isolation, I found myself reverting to my socially awkward highschool self. I even noticed similar behavior in several friends, some of whom I actually went to high school with. 

The months ahead hold a long period of readjustment to normal life and we must be patient with ourselves and others. 

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