The semester is coming to a close and the holidays are just around the corner. Students are facing excitement to be done, stress with the end quickly approaching and overall mixed feelings about another semester ending.
Fall 2021 was the first semester mostly in-person in nearly two years. Although most people are glad to be back, there are many stressors that come with this new environment.
Ken Messina, clinical director in the Student Counseling Center (SCC) and associate professor, talks about what the SCC has noticed students are experiencing.
“I think what we’re seeing the most is the typical, just amplified,” Messina said. “Our students are struggling with anxiety and depression, but the other piece that we’re finding is students are struggling with feelings of loneliness and not feeling connected to other students, and not knowing how to go about finding friends or finding that group of friends on campus.”
Messina mentioned that students feeling disconnected is a recent problem that has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and being isolated. Students have not had a chance to make new social connections and have been missing a crucial piece for their social development.
“We’re seeing students haven’t had to be around groups of people and haven’t had to interact with new people for almost two years now,” Messina said. “Suddenly we’re throwing them back into a college setting, and they’re not feeling as prepared or confident to be there.”
Not only is there a stress of readjusting to college life, but there is an increase in stressors regarding seasonal colds and COVID-19 safety for many people across campus.
Going home after a semester of being away, in some cases for the first time in a long time for many, is also weighing students down.
Messina mentioned some concerns being strong differing opinions between family members, adjusting to be at home after being independent, disruption in routines and fitting back into family dynamics.
He recommends when students go home for break they should try to keep to their routine as much as possible. This includes maintaining a sleep schedule, eating times and socializing and talking to friends.
The SCC offers many different resources to students during the semester. This includes various different support groups and multiple counseling resources.
Support groups offer students support from their peers and a way to realize that others are struggling with similar things and they aren’t alone. Everyone requires different things, whether it be multiple counseling sessions or going to a support group every few weeks.
Messina and John Mathe, a professor and a member of the counseling center, conducted research last semester with a campus wide survey on student mental health. This survey has impacted outreach planning and restructuring some of the SCC’s services.
“Anytime we’re doing that research, it’s not just so we can get another publication, but also so it informs us and we were able to take a lot of that data back to administration last year and say this is what’s going on with our students,” Messina said.
As the semester comes to a close and students prepare to go home for winter break, it’s important to know the resources available. The SCC website has a list of resources, but Messina’s biggest advice is for students to try and maintain routines and connections to their peers.