The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our lives and the way the world operates, including colleges. As such, the coronavirus has created a new environment with unexpected and unprecedented obstacles that may pose new mental health challenges for students, according to a recent press release.
Under normal circumstances, the transition to college and the college years can be difficult with many changes, including newfound freedom and unexpected pressures. College-age students are often exposed to circumstances that can place them at risk for serious mental illnesses. These mental illnesses usually first appear in a young adult’s early 20s, often coinciding with the college years, and by their mid-20s, 75% of those who will have a mental health disorder in their life have experienced their first onset.
As we continue to navigate new challenges during this time, students and families should be aware of the impact on a person’s mental health. What can be done to differentiate between expected stressors or mental health challenges as the result of the pandemic and what signs should you be aware that may indicate a more serious mental illness is developing?
Here are a few things to consider:
• Consider taking a mental health screener. Online screening is one way to determine if you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Screeners are anonymous, free and easily accessible online. Mental Health America (MHA), a national mental health advocacy organization, saw a big increase in screening between January 2020 and May 2020. Other organizations offering mental health screeners include MHA, MindWise and PsyCom.
• Access digital educational support resources. An entire community of mental health professionals, advocates and individuals living with mental illness are available to help. Educational guides and resources are available online from several organizations, including MHA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
• Consider telehealth services. While many of these services have existed for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many healthcare providers, including psychiatrists, to transition to using more telepsychiatry and tele-counseling services and platforms to continue consistent health care delivery for patients while following social distancing and other quarantine guidelines. There are many telehealth resources available for students and their families that can offer support.
A recent study suggests that some patients may be willing to engage with tele-counseling. These results suggest that patients studied reported similar levels of satisfaction for both telemedicine encounters and in-person interactions and that those who engaged in telemedicine interactions appreciated their clinician-patient relationship experiences and overall user experience.
• Together with your HCP, research your treatment options. Online support groups and healthcare providers can help guide decisions on the treatment options that may be the best fit for your health, condition and lifestyle. Always speak with your healthcare provider to better understand all available options and work with them to choose the option that is best for your specific needs.
• Consider an online group. Online mental health support groups can also help. Others’ perspectives can offer a sense of comfort and self-empowerment as you navigate the diagnosis and treatment landscape. Groups can encourage empathy, productive discussions, and a sense of community, all within a confidential setting.
Don’t be afraid to seek more information or support as you navigate this challenging time. As our entire world adapts to the many changes brought on by the global pandemic, it is important to actively monitor your mental health and wellness.
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