Mental Health of Students during COVID-19

Many mental health professionals are concerned with the impacts of COVID-19 on a younger generation which has already reported staggering levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide even before the pandemic. Students already coping with mental health conditions have been more susceptible to the mental health impacts of COVID-19. In many situations school closures also mean that students lose access to school mental health resources. Several students who experience mental health conditions are often in stressful home situations and may not feel comfortable or have the privacy to talk about their situations virtually. School routines can also function as an anchor or coping mechanism for young people with mental health issues, and the loss of said routines can severely challenge how students cope. The closing of schools also means that students are losing access to many of the social networks and interactions they had with teachers and fellow students. In a Gallup study conducting in May 2020, many parents said that the separation from other students and teachers presented a challenge for their children.

According to a study conducted by Active Minds, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the mental health of students, in April 2020, 20% of college students said their mental health significantly worsened under COVID-19. Among both high school and college students, 38% said that they had trouble focusing and that doing work was stressful. Specifically for students living under stay-at-home orders, 8 out of 10 students said they were struggling to focus on school and avoid distractions. Several students were struggling to continue performing well at school while maintaining their mental health, but many did not know how to cope or ask for health. The same survey noted that 55% of students did not know where to get help for their mental health.

Studies conducted during the Fall 2020 semester showed similar patterns of mental health challenges among student populations. Many students felt loneliness, isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, and sadness. 89% of college students said that they are experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of COVID-19 and 25% said that their depression significantly worsened. A change from the onset of the pandemic is that more students (71%) reported knowing where to access mental health resources. A majority of students also reported feeling hopeful for their futures.