When Saint Joseph’s University implemented “Health and Wellness” days for the 2020-2021 semester, I was excited and relieved that the college I attend actually cared about my mental well-being.
I now can laugh at my past self, because I now realize that these days off serve little to no purpose. In no way do we get a break from the constant pressure known as college.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have lived through a mental health crisis, and it is especially a heavy burden to college-aged men and women who are on the threshold of moving into the real world. I know many people, including myself, who have dealt with mental health issues such as extreme stress, anxiety, laziness, anger, depression, and more.
As students we have had to adjust to this pandemic in terms of our education. Have Universities actually tried to help us with this transition? That’s up for you to decide. How many people do you know that are anxious for a future career? How many people do you know who are barely getting an education and are too lazy to show up to classes? It is easy to place blame on us, the students. However, there is a much bigger problem here that isn’t truly being addressed.
I am not saying I have a perfect solution to this issue, but something needs to be done.
I talked to some SJU students, and they further proved that we are amidst a serious problem. From the small pool of students I chose to talk to, I gathered some important information about how we have been negatively impacted academically and socially.
Everyone that I spoke with said that they have been experiencing fatigue or burnout, or both. Especially with the semester winding down, this is always the most stressful time of the year. SJU has pledged to give students a break (not a Spring one) by allowing us to take a few days off during the semester for rest. “Health and Wellness” days were meant to give us time to rest and relax, but in reality we get to do the opposite. The students I talked to about “Health and Wellness” days had nothing positive to say. Basically they are a day off to do more work, since professors give out more assignments because we technically have more time to do them. Everyone I talked to would have much rather been on a 7-10 day break instead of the two randomly placed days off. Instead of giving us a Spring break that is much-needed, we get 2 days off per semester. Awesome stuff, SJU.
The Issue With Online Schooling
On a serious note, other mental health conditions of college students have worsened tremendously since last March. The anxiety surrounding getting exposed to Covid-19 is preventing many students from going to in-person classes. When you don’t attend your in-person classes, you are less engaged and involved in the course. Even going to class in person is another world from sitting in your bedroom on Zoom. It is difficult for many students to engage in online learning. Lower engagement means lower quality of education and lower grades. It truly is a challenge to motivate yourself to get up each day and learn and study in an online setting. Some of the people I talked to admitted that they were struggling in school because of being online and not paying attention. You could technically blame the student, but this situation that we are in is just setting us up to implode.
To begin with, college students deal with the stress of getting good grades in tough classes, finding internships and jobs, and living on our own. The pandemic has multiplied the stress and pressure of these already difficult situations. Keeping a high GPA for most is tough in college, but when you have no motivation to go to class or are too anxious about contracting a potentially life-taking disease, the level of difficulty increases. Add that pressure on students who already have preexisting mental health conditions such as depression, and overall well-being is nearly impossible to manage. Since Covid-19 has made workplaces smaller and more dangerous, finding an internship has been a struggle for many. This adds more stress and anxiety for our futures, which can affect our day-to-day lives.
Our Social Dilemma
Socially, our mental health has changed tremendously and in a whole different way from our academic lives.
We all know college is about the fun we get to have with a life filled with freedom. Now, that is not the case. In order to steer clear of Covid-19, most college students are staying in on Friday and Saturday nights. As we sit, confined to a dormitory or apartment, the time passing takes a toll. The “college experience” is built off of freedom and enjoyment, but that has been stripped of us this past year. If you are caught partying, consequences follow. It’s okay, you can see your friends next year!
Feel sorry for college students, or don’t. Either way, there is an issue that is undeniably making our lives more difficult, which is why we are struggling. With the combined academic pressure to succeed in this new environment and the fact that there is no option to have a social life to escape the stress of school, mental issues for college students are nearly inevitable.
I am not going to suggest anything groundbreaking. Instead I am going to offer what should not be done. Let’s not ignore that we are experiencing a mental health crisis. Let’s not forget that we have a brighter future ahead. Let’s not forget that even though your friends looks happy on the outside, they can be struggling with something that’s hidden. Most importantly, let’s not pretend that one day off from school is going to make a difference.