As the coronavirus and other factors continue to impact mental health, local colleges and universities are supporting students by offering various services.
Supporting students and their mental health has been a priority for both Clark State College and Wittenberg University as COVID-19 has caused students to experience more anxiety and stress.
Wittenberg’s director of student counseling and supportive services Matthew West feels COVID-19 has had a “strong correlation” with affecting the lives of students.
“Students are struggling with limited emotional support and resources, missing important milestones to their emotional development and problem-solving skills during low access to social connections because of limited in-person outlets and activities, unknowns about their immediate future, and grief,” he said.
West said most students helped at the counseling center are dealing with high amounts of anxiety and stress. He said typical issues relate to homesickness, performance anxiety in atheltics or academics, navigating new relationships in residential settings, economic difficulties, limited emotional supports, and dealing with disconnection because of COVID-19.
On a daily basis, the university’s counseling center handles all on-campus referrals for general mental health issues, problems and consultation, and answers all student inquiries on getting access to mental health counseling.
“The counselors are all trained and capable of working with students that are experiencing anxiety, mood disorders, relationship issues, trauma, combating stress, and other general mental health concerns,” he said. “They meet the student where they are at emotionally and are flexible in adapting to the student’s genuine experience and needs.”
At Clark State, the counseling center has also seen an increase in students with depression and anxiety, as well as students dealing with addiction of a family member and those needing counseling due to partner violence or emotional abuse, said Melinda Van Noord, counseling coordinator.
The center has expanded the availability of services and added 24-hour coverage to reach more students and help with their stress levels by providing programs such as trauma informed yoga and therapeutic art experiences.
“COVID-19 created a high level of stress, feelings of isolation, excessive involvement in social media for some, and loneliness - all issues which can negatively impact mental health,” she said. “(The college) has a mission to institute trauma informed practices, so there has been a dedicated focus on enhancing supportive services and providing trainings to help staff and faculty intervene with students in distress.”
The college encourages students to reach out with any questions about their emotional distress or if they need help, Van Noord said.
“It’s important for students to recognize that mental health issues are common and not the result of a personal weakness,” she said. “We want them to feel at ease about seeking mental health support.”
The college provides short-term counseling, crisis intervention, assistance finding treatment, 24-hour access to mental health counseling, and this fall will offer support groups, mental health trainings and outreach events to share related information related to depression and suicide prevention.