As a community we are facing an unprecedented challenge, we’ve been confronting a pandemic for several months that continues to impact us in unpredictable and significant ways. Students likely face prolonged periods of isolation, uncertainty, loss, financial stressors, and disruption in their lives. These circumstances are likely to create anxiety and other mental health concerns or further compound pre-existing concerns. It is also well documented that this pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
General data regarding mental health concerns:
- 1:3 students experience significant mental health concerns with depression, anxiety, and relationship concerns as top issues.
- 40% of students who need support actually seek mental health services
- 64% of those that experience mental health issues and drop out of school attribute it to mental health issues
- Students of color are less likely to seek services, experience greater rates of feeling overwhelmed in their first year, and report greater rates of feeling isolated on campus.
- Graduate and professional students are 6x more likely to experience anxiety or depression compared to the general adult population
- National growth in utilization of mental health services on campus is 6x the growth in enrollment over recent 5 years which implies demand not linked to enrollment.
Impact of COVID-19 on college student mental health:
- 80% of students have experienced a negative impact on their mental health with 20% reporting that their mental health has significantly worsened
- Common concerns include stress or anxiety (91%), disappointment or sadness (81%), loneliness or isolation (80%), financial set back (48%), and relocation (56%).
- Self-care challenges identified by students include 76% have trouble maintaining a routine, 73% struggle to get enough physical activity, and 63% find it challenging to stay connected with others.
- College and university staff and faculty report significant stress regarding concerns for returning to campus
- Racial and ethnic minorities, especially those identifying as Hispanic/Latinx, reported higher levels of emotional distress due to COVID-19
- Adults younger than 50 were much more likely to report the emotional impact of the pandemic compared to older adults
In preparation for Fall semester, it will be important to have a comprehensive mental health plan in place that emphasizes awareness, visible programming on skill development, and accessible resources on campus. Services need to be designed to support the continuum of mental health needs on campus. Developing effective services for campus requires use of helping-seeking and trauma informed approaches.