COVID-19 affecting depression in college students

Students have been faced with depression throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have found quarantining a struggle, leading to more fear and anxiety. Graphic by Breanna Biorato.

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You wake up 10 minutes before class, roll out of bed and get on your computer. Barely making it onto your Zoom call in time, you stare blankly at the screen as your professor begins the lecture.

A survey study conducted in September found that the way school is continuing is harming students’ mental health more every day.

Students’ mental health has taken a big hit from how colleges have reacted and adapted to COVID-19. Hybrid or completely virtual classes are causing students to struggle with balancing their schedules. It’s getting harder to find the motivation to continue every day.

As more students and faculty begin to quarantine, depression rates are continuing to rise every day.

“This whole year seems to have more hopelessness to it, or last year, I suppose,” said Alec McCormick, a senior film major from Las Vegas. “It’s definitely a factor that doesn’t help.”

A study done on the psychological impact of quarantine was conducted to discover the real harm that attending college during COVID-19 is having on students. Quarantine is hard enough as it is, but knowing what’s on the line during that time of isolation can make it much worse for people.

Being thrown into quarantine comes with a lot of stressors such as the duration of isolation, boredom, fear, anxiety and the frustration of not knowing exactly what’s going on. Then after students are let out, things such as financial stressors hit them.

Senisa Zambrano, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Pleasant Grove, recently came out of her own quarantine. She said students who have gone into quarantine come out feeling more stressed and anxious about what they missed in class and what assignments or work they need to catch up on.

“Being a mechanical engineering major, not only are my classes fully in person, a majority of them are completely hands-on,” Zambrano said. “While the typical class portion itself wasn’t too bad, the labs for those classes were impossible to do at home.”

Even though she knew there were people available to help her when she came back, she was still feeling stressed about what work she needed to get done.

Students are beginning to adapt and find ways to fight that feeling of being alone, especially in quarantine when they’re feeling the most isolated.

“The most important thing you can do is reach out to your support group,” said Camille Saunders, a freshman sociology and criminal justice major from Portland, Oregon. “I’ve been making sure to keep in contact with my loved ones I know are struggling, and the people around you are more than happy to help you.”

Other students have turned to more creative and energetic hobbies to fight the feeling of anxiousness that might be holding them back.

McCormick said: “Personally, I throw myself into creative projects. I think reconnecting with people, starting a new hobby, or being outside in nature is a good thing. I go on walks a lot. All of this paired with exercise, healthy eating and healthy sleep is a good start.”

The Booth Wellness Center is a free resource available to all Dixie State University students if they are feeling down. It offers multiple services, one of which is a mental health service.

“Students have had an increase in anxiety-like and depressive-like symptoms since COVID-19,” said Jamy Dahle, mental health counselor and outreach coordinator. “And that has been attached to a level of uncertainty that’s been happening in the world.”

The Booth Wellness Center offers tips, tricks and mental health services that students may need in this time of uncertainty. Dahle said more students need to use and take advantage of the services the center offers.

As students are being asked to quarantine and are told to keep in their own space, the counselors at the Booth Wellness Center are there to help. If asked, they have a list of things you can do in your quarantine, and things you can do that don’t put others at risk of catching COVID-19. 

Dahle said students need to realize they aren’t completely confined to their rooms. They can leave their apartments, take a walk outside, as long as they make sure they’re masked-up and socially distancing themselves from others. That can significantly increase students’ mental health as they realize that they don’t need to stay in their rooms their entire quarantine.

On a more professional side, there are medical treatments that are available to help cure depression and anxiety. Premier Psychological Counseling & Consulting offers counseling, consulting and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy to those suffering with depression and anxiety.

TMS therapy is for treatment-resistant major depressive order for those suffering from depression who have tried several different methods of help. During the therapy, electromagnetic pulses stimulate the parts of the brain that are under-stimulated and cause depressive moods.

Dr. Sidney Young, founder of the clinic, said she believes it is the isolation and lack of social interaction that are causing students to fall deeper into depression. It is affecting every part of students’ health in regard to mental, physical and even behavioral wellbeing.

As students continue to quarantine and isolate, they can begin to change their habits.

“In that isolated state, instead of being in a real risk-taking and growth mode, they get into a very protective mode and they get more and more caught up in behavioral patterns,” Young said.

Habits like spending all their time binging on Netflix and YouTube can begin to wear on their health. Dahle said as they start to become less productive, their mood will quickly decline until they are deep in feelings of anxiety and depression.

Dahle said she and the staff at the Booth Wellness Center will accept everyone sho walks through the center’s doors, whether it’s a big or small problem. Staff members want to help students win that battle against depression.

The Booth Wellness Center is open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and students can schedule an appointment at (435) 652-7755.