Pandemic Creates Mental Health Epidemic for Students

By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer—

There were lifestyle changes abound as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of which caused, and still cause, overwhelming stress and an overall decline in the mental health of college students nationwide. 

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, 71% of college students have reported increased levels of stress since the start of the pandemic. Most of these students reported symptoms such as lack of sleep, depressive thoughts, concentration issues and decreased academic performance. 

Nessa Parrish, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student, said that the pandemic has affected her in many ways, including her mental health. 

“The pandemic has definitely contributed to some massive stress for me,” Parrish said. “As nearly all college students, I had become accustomed to a certain level of stress, but the introduction of Covid-19 sort of flipped my world upside down.” 

Like many others, Parrish struggles with anxiety about the health and wellbeing of her family. 

“Both my mother and my grandfather are considered high-risk and having to constantly think about whether or not they are taking the right precautions is a big weight on me,” Parrish said. 

Other students have experienced stress due to other aspects of the pandemic. Sadie Whitehead, an extrovert and active member of the UTC community through various extracurriculars, feels as though the impact on her social life has had a negative effect on her mental health.  

“Social life was really bad for me,” Whitehead said. “There would be multiple days that there was no reason for me to leave my apartment. It was common that I would not interact with anyone other than my roommates for days at a time.” 

In addition, Whitehead found that her grades declined, becoming worse than they had ever been since starting college in 2018. She certainly is not the only college student to experience dwindling academic performance.

OneClass surveyed more than 14,000 college students from more than 200 colleges across the nation. Their results found that 85% of participants saw a decline in their grades after the Fall 2020 semester. Many participants noted that this change was primarily due to their mental health. 

Virginia Campbell, a student at UTC, also experienced a shift in her academic performance.

“My grades have lowered on average by an entire letter grade since we went online, partially due to the fact that I don’t work as well completely online,” Campbell said. 

However, Campbell said that the university has offered her support and assistance throughout her college experience, providing therapy services to her since the Fall 2019 semester. 

“I personally think that all students should do counseling, especially right now, because I think a lot of students are going through something similar to me,” Campbell said.

Student Tyler Redwine has also utilized UTC’s counseling services to manage pandemic related mental health. 

“They helped me a lot and when they couldn’t they directed me to a place that has been perfect for me ever since,” Redwine said. “I’m getting the help I need thanks to them.” 

According to a study completed by the Center for Disease Control in the summer of 2020, the pandemic has brought forth an increase in suicidal thoughts and tendencies, substance abuse, and depression. They recommend that anyone experiencing mental health decline or increased stress to start making small changes to manage their symptoms, such as eating complete meals, avoiding too much time online or following the news too closely, and connecting with your community or friends in a Covid-friendly way. 

Students interested in using UTC’s counseling services can find more information at www.utc.edu/counseling-center

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