COVID remains detrimental to student mental health
New survey data shows that depression, uncertainty, and other student mental health concerns linger even while support networks are growing
COVID-19 continues to negatively impact student mental health, with one in four students reporting a significant increase in depression, according to new research.
“An uncertain fall semester has continued to impact students’ mental health across all demographics,” said Laura Horne, chief program officer of Active Minds, a nonprofit promoting mental health awareness and education for young adults. The new research comes from an Active Minds survey of student mental health.
“Students are dealing with major uncertainty, grief, and disruptions to their routines and lifestyles and it is deeply affecting their mental health,” Horne added.
While students are still struggling, there is also a lot of hope. They are relying on each other, as well as institutional resources, to help them get through this difficult time. Two-thirds of students reported an increase in supporting others with their mental health. Students are also proving to be resilient in the face of adversity. Seventy-eight percent of students feel optimistic or hopeful about their school-related goals and future job prospects.
“Students are struggling right now, yes. But what we are also seeing from students is a renewed sense of hope and optimism for themselves, for their peers, and for the future,” said Horne. “They are harnessing the power of peer networks and reaching out to lend support during this difficult time.”
Of the college students who responded to the Active Minds’ Student Mental Health Survey, 89 percent said COVID-19 has caused them stress or anxiety, 78 percent felt loneliness or isolation, and almost half (48 percent) have experienced a setback in finances.
High school students are not faring any better. Eighty percent of high school students surveyed have experienced stress or anxiety as a result of the pandemic and 76 percent have felt loneliness or isolation since March.
COVID-19 isn’t just affecting students’ mental health. Fifty-six percent of students responded that their daily level of physical activity has decreased or significantly decreased – a large shift away from this form of self-care.
“While traditional coping methods, such as physical activity, in-person therapy, or time with friends are perhaps more difficult for students, we saw that they fouund new ways to connect and get the help they need,” said Amy Gatto, senior campus program manager for Active Minds. “Social media and texting have a bad reputation, but when used well these types of virtual connection points between students are vital to supporting their overall mental health – especially during times of social distancing.”
Sixty-eight percent of students have benefitted from virtual interactions with friends via calls, texting, social media, or emails. Being at home has also helped students cope by spending time with their pets (54 percent) and receiving increased familial support (40 percent). Twenty-seven percent have also relied on virtual student mental health support, such as virtual counseling, virtual support groups, and texting support to cope with the pandemic.