• Ashari Cain

Academic Strain + COVID Pain = Mental Drain

Mental illness is one of the main contributors to student disengagement and plummeting grade percentages... not that numbers are everything. However, as mid-semester approaches, students are expected to be engrossed in estimating their participation points, typing out extensive papers while searching for Halloween costumes. But at this time of year, an even heavier burden haunts the hallways: seasonal depression.

Seasonal depression typically occurs around the same time of year and can last from four to five months. This is just one out of several mental illnesses which engulfs thousands of college students who silently struggle through their everyday routines. This fall semester the societal pressure for adolescents to be successful American scholars, maintain high social statuses and healthy fitness lives all while having active involvement in extracurriculars and doing required community service hours is proving to be greatly unrealistic. This is especially true in a COVID-19 recovery era where political officials are still quarrelling over mask mandates and faculty members are still learning how to properly operate a Zoom call.

All of these variables weigh and wear on the emotional and physical resilience of the average teenager transitioning into adulthood. In university environments, individuals already grapple with not feeling welcomed, desiring to not be social, feeling overwhelmed and dealing with social anxiety. The Mount is tucked in between steep mountains, wide cornfields and bridged by a busy highway. In other words, aside from the previous nationwide lockdown, here on campus isolation is a trend that runs thick geographically and communally.

Student participation in campus activities is inconsistent and do not reflect the Universities’ true current demographics and cultural dynamic. Many individuals would rather leave campus or remain in their dorm rooms instead of interacting where they do not feel comfortable while they have a list of assignments waiting for them on Canvas. These are mental battles that are not being addressed but fester in the cluttered minds of stressed students who lack the support system necessary for them to attain a healthy lifestyle. Most students’ scholarships depend on their athletic and academic performance, but not everyone possesses the mental capacity to meet the lofty educational standards laid before them.

Expressing your poor mental state can be one of the most uncomfortable conversations to have with your professor. Imagine how many students refrain from doing so because they do not want to be judged, pitied or criticized. In addition, some educators are insensitive to students’ mental health needs and overlook how much it actually impacts their learning ability. Not all educators are equipped with proper resources or attention to their own health needs in order to help students. Words like “keep pushing through” or “the semester is almost over” will not suffice for students in a potential health crises.

Physical care is highly emphasized, including sports, but our bodies are not the only things that need rest. We live in such a paradox where the main part of our bodies is the one we neglect: our minds. It is normal and easy to talk about sports and how teams are looking. It is the opposite when it comes to talking about how we all are really feeling. So many do not speak up because they know action will not be taken. Lesson plans will continue, late assignments will overlap, bad coping mechanisms will relapse and the exam will still be scheduled for tomorrow. A day with an unhealthy mind and a damaged spirit can make a student feel lost forever.