Health issues

College Students Face Increased Mental Health Issues With Return From In-Person Classes

Since Katelyn Holmgren transferred to the University of Florida for the fall semester, mental health and homesickness have interfered with her daily life.

Holmgren previously attended the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she was on a pre-physical therapy trail.

After two weeks in her senior year at UF, she said stress from classes, schoolwork, the pandemic and adjusting to the move had piled up.

Her dog, Lena, offers her emotional support during times when her stress and homesickness sets in.

“I feel like all animals, not even just dogs or her [Lena] specifically… can sense when you need that extra boost, ”said Holmgren.

For many students, the pandemic has wreaks havoc on their mental health. The transition from online at-home classes to almost entirely in-person classes has made it even more difficult for some to adjust to a new routine.

The UF Santé adult outpatient psychiatric clinic is seeing an increase in the number of patients over 18, UF Health spokesperson Ken Garcia wrote in an email.

The clinic saw a 106% increase in adult patients who attended their first appointment in August between 2019 and 2020, according to UF’s psychiatry department. The numbers rose another 4% in 2021.

For new scheduled adult patients, the clinic saw a 21% increase in August between 2020 and 2021, as reported to UF Health by the UF Department of Psychiatry.

“To have this really brutal change in my routine it was shocking, ”said a UF student who requested to remain anonymous for health and privacy reasons. “And it was really hard to get to a place where I was functioning again, doing my things and talking to people.”

The student said that virtual classrooms combined with the concern for increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida have affected his mental health and ability to socialize on campus this semester.

“Now that I’m reintroduced into this environment, it feels more like a chore than making friends and getting involved,” she said.

The student said she had previously had mental health issues before the pandemic, but being in quarantine, staying home and taking online classes for over a year only helped add more stress and struggle to his well-being.

She had therapy twice, but since most services changed to operate remotely during the pandemic, she stopped.

“It’s been a really tough and difficult journey trying to find at least some semblance of stability in my life,” she said.

She plans to seek help through the UF counseling and wellness center, but said it was difficult to find the time and mental strength to make the call.

“The world is going through a pandemic right now and no one knows what’s going to happen next,” the student said. “It’s a lot bigger than us, and I feel like it weighs on everyone.”

According to the most recent Healthy Minds Study, which surveys tens of thousands of college and university students across the United States, 41% of students tested positive for depression during the spring semester and 34% tested positive for anxiety. These are the highest levels observed by the study. However, this year’s results are part of a steadily rising trend, and students surveyed said that while the pandemic had an impact on their mental health, it was not the root cause.

Grace Parker, an 18-year-old freshman at Santa Fe College, said her mental health was not affected as much by switching from online classes to in-person classes as her senior year at Bartram High School. Trail in St. Johns, Florida was detained in person.

Parker said her final year of high school in person helped her easily adjust to her in-person classes in Santa Fe.

“I think if I was online it would have made it 10 times harder than with this adjustment,” she said.

It is possible that COVID-19 and the shift from online learning to more in-person schooling in August had an impact on the number of students seeking UF health services, Garcia wrote, but the reason no is not specifically known.

Marcia Morris, associate professor of psychiatry at UF and associate director of the Student Health Psychiatry program, said loneliness is the # 1 stressor in college students today, especially with the increased use of social media and a decrease in face-to-face contact over the past 10 to 15 years.

“But COVID has accelerated that kind of loneliness,” Morris said. “And that’s something I hear from students every day.”

One of them research studies on campus psychiatric drug use found that over the past 10 years, the use of antidepressants, anxiety medications and stimulants has doubled. About a quarter of university students have used psychiatric medicine in the past year.

Research is still ongoing to understand the impact of the pandemic on psychiatric drug use among college students, but other studies show an almost 38% increase in anti-anxiety prescriptions. in adults nationwide during the pandemic.

Morris said it is crucial that students not only contact on-campus services, off-campus services and family, friends or any other support system, but also demonstrate self-compassion and recognize that many students are struggling in these difficult times. and transitions.

“I never want someone to feel hopeless because they’ll get over it,” Morris said. “It might just take some therapy, and sometimes medication, and also lifestyle changes like exercise and meditation, and then that wonderful social support.”

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