COVID-19 has taken its toll on the campus community

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Graphic by Fernanda Ugarte

Students have faced many struggles with mental health during the pandemic.

Kristin Bergmann, Staff Writer

Symptoms of anxiety or depression have gone up by 30 percent  in the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to KFF, four in 10 adults have reported symptoms linked to anxiety or depression in January, compared to 11 percent between January and June of 2019.

This concerning trend can be seen on our campus too: the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of the CSUSM community. Students and faculty were thrown into uncertainty during the transition to online learning. The lockdowns closed CSUSM for over a year, but also left an impact on students individually.

In a survey among CSUSM students, multiple students reported that the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health. The most prevalent fear reported was uncertainty of the future.

The pandemic also increased financial and food insecurity problems among students.  Loneliness during the lockdowns also impacted the mental health of some students. They were also worried about not getting accurate facts about the virus. These fears were shared by students who did not indicate COVID as a negative impact to their mental health.

The findings imply that mental health issues are very common among students and still remain a stigma. It is the responsibility of all of us as a campus community to work towards eliminating prevalent stereotypes and reducing stigma around mental health disorders. At the same time, there need to be campus-wide initiatives to improve mental health. Oftentimes, initiatives are directed towards physical health.

The “Take the Stairs” campaign, which launched in July, encourages students to use the stairs instead of elevators when possible. In the past, there have been many on-campus events promoting clean eating and a healthy lifestyle.

As an effort to promote mental wellbeing, counseling is available for all CSUSM students at the Student Health Center located in the Chavez Circle opposite the first floor of the USU.

For students who are experiencing food insecurity, the Cougar Pantry located in Commons 104 can ease the psychological stress coming from this. However, many students think that more should be done. In the survey, students suggested that there should be events to get students to meet and events that the campus community could look forward to, for example a Formal.

Students also want open discussions about how to get back into being social without anxiety. Generally, students find open dialogue about mental health the most important measure to improve understanding for mental issues.

Regarding the learning environment, some students think that professors have a responsibility to ease stress on students. One student said that professors should coordinate their assignments instead of assigning them all at the same time.

Another student suggested offering more art programs as a stress relief. As the survey showed, the CSUSM community demands increased efforts to promote mental health.

As a first step it is important to understand that health is not just determined by the state of the body, but by the state of the mind respectively. As community members, we have to raise awareness for mental health issues and direct our efforts toward the mind and the body as a unity rather than one or the other.

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos