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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – The Dark Shadow Of #COVID: #MentalHealth Impact Persis

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In recent months, more and more campuses have announced they will reopen, but the dark shadow of #mentalhealthissues will extend into the fall semester and beyond.

Ray Schroeder

We are now experiencing a rise in #COVID cases around the country, but hope persists that science will eventually be successful in quelling this deadly #virus. However, that does not mean that the consequences of the #pandemic are over. For #students at all levels, the #mentalhealthproblems continue.

#Anxiety, #depression and suicides are lasting effects of the #isolation, fear and loss generated by the disease. Loss extends far and wide. It includes the loss of those who have died and those who suffer long-haul #COVID. Also included are the loss of months and years of social engagement, interpersonal relationships and confidence in creating new relationships. These losses can devastate lives of people in all age groups, but particularly in the fragile state of late #adolescence and young adulthood. These deeply intense feelings and changes can have dire consequences on the lives of those who are affected.

While it is still very early to measure the impact of the #pandemic on #mentalhealth, it is clear that there are severe ramifications. Analyzing data earlier this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported,

During the #pandemic, about 4 in 10 #adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of #anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten #adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 … During the #pandemic, a larger than average share of young #adults (ages 18-24) report symptoms of #anxiety and/or depressive disorder (56%). Compared to all adults, young #adults are more likely to report substance use (25% vs. 13%) and suicidal thoughts (26% vs. 11%). Prior to the #pandemic, young #adults were already at high risk of poor #mentalhealth and substance use disorder, though many did not receive treatment.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

We are not getting back to normal. It will be a long time after the last #COVID case is cured (if ever that occurs) before we can return to normal. The #mentalhealth damage will persist and even grow after the #virus itself is vanquished. Even as the economy ramps back up and unemployment drops, the dark shadow of #mentalhealth damage expands. It has already had a tragic impact on college campuses.

The prestigious, rather small Dartmouth College campus in New Hampshire has suffered multiple deaths of freshmen since the beginning of the #pandemic, write Soleil Gaylord and Arielle Feuerstein in The Dartmouth: “The deaths of four undergraduate #students — three of which were by #suicide, according to reporting from The Dartmouth and the Boston Globe — brought widespread grief and sorrow to the campus community.” Gaylord and Feuerstein note the complexities of providing services. In some cases, #mentalhealthcare is denied to distant #students because of their home-state laws that prohibit remote #counseling.

The phenomenon of “#suicide contagion” is an insidious aspect of the #mentalhealthcrisis we face. Kate Hidalgo Bellows reports in The Chronicle of Higher Education that evidence is accumulating of related clusters of suicides on campuses:

Clusters of suicides — multiple deaths in close proximity — have raised concerns of “#suicide contagion” on campuses. Research has shown that exposure to #suicide can increase suicidal #behavior in others, especially those who are already at risk. “It can happen at small places like Dartmouth [or] big places like the University of Washington,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: #Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. “They’re even more tragic when you have a series of deaths like this because it really affects the community. Every institution ought to look at the root causes of this. We know that #mentalhealthissues are a significant challenge.”

It is so much easier to diagnose #COVID than it is to identify and diagnose #mentalhealth damage. There are no quick saliva tests for #paranoia, #depression, #loneliness and associated disorders. Even in the early stages, those afflicted may not even recognize the signs of #depression. Yet the end result is just as devastating: long-term disability or even death.

For distant online #students and those who cannot come to a #mentalhealth center, the professionals are somewhat hampered in making diagnoses and delivering counsel. Elon University counselor Mark Eades says, “Virtual counseling is beneficial because it saves the commute time for #students, but it makes it more difficult for the counselor to read the student’s body language. Some of our training when we’re becoming therapists is to not just listen to words, but also to see what the person’s entire person is telling you. It’s hard to really see if a person is sort of slumped or they might be saying one thing or showing something different.”

Princeton University dean of the college Jill Dolan recommended earlier this year that faculty consider easing workloads and take into account #student #mentalhealth for the end of the semester. “We have to figure out how to acknowledge our common humanity while also maintaining our rigorous expectations,” she continued. “And that’s something that, #pandemic aside, I think all of us very much want to do.”

The need for understanding, flexibility and broad perspectives will continue for semesters and years to come. Lives have been altered. There will be no “return to normal” for many students, staff, faculty and administrators. How are you personally incorporating this perspective into your work? How are you leading and encouraging colleagues at your institution to take a holistic view of the #student into account as standards and outcomes are crafted?

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

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