Return to in-person classes at UW raises mental health concerns for some

The Commission for Students with Disabilities is urging the administration to ensure remote and hybrid options indefinitely make education more equitable beyond the pandemic. The university met with members of ASUW’s Disability Commission in early February, said Michelle Ma, associate director of UW News. The board and administration have agreed to continue meetings to address student needs on how to make future decisions regarding COVID-19 adjustments.

ASUW’s Gallant said he benefits from in-person learning as someone with anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but acknowledges it’s not the case for all students.

“Let people have autonomy and the ability to act on their educational experience. And if they feel the safest in the classroom, so be it,” he said. “But if they feel safest at home or remotely, allow them that opportunity and continue to have the equitable educational experience we have been promised.”

The return to in-person learning has also not been easy for faculty, staff and students with children.

Like other teachers with young children, Benjamin Brunjes has had to juggle parenthood while teaching remotely. As an assistant professor at UW’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, Brunjes also found himself leading his eight children through their own online classes. Juggling the two, in addition to trying to create a community with 60 students he mostly hasn’t met, has been an added stressor, he said.

“The key right now is to be flexible and agile: create an environment where there is trust and communication, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and do what you can to keep people safe,” Brunjes wrote in an email.

The increase in stress, anxiety and depression seen over the past two years likely wouldn’t exist without the pandemic, said Dr. Jane M. Simoni, clinical psychologist and professor and director of clinical training at UW Department of Psychology. While many hoped for normality after the COVID vaccine was rolled out last spring, vaccine hesitancy, variants and the uncertain nature of the pandemic have spawned a sense of hopelessness, she said.

“People in general want a sense of control over their lives. They want to feel like they’re going through something predictable, and that’s all the outbreak wasn’t,” Simoni said.

If students’ anxiety or depression worsens or persists, Simoni and Foo Kune of the UW Counseling Center both recommend accessing therapy, either on campus or through their health insurance. Students can access on-campus mental health services through the Counseling Center, but some students report that it can be difficult to access support quickly.

Julie Emory, a freshman graduate student in UW’s information management program, said she tried to book a 30-minute date in January after learning her grandfather had died. consequences of COVID-19. The first available appointment was in a month.

Foo Kune said the center allows students to schedule appointments for two weeks to avoid cancellations. Students can call the center to be put on a cancellation list so they can be seen more quickly if an appointment is cancelled.

“Most people will be fine; they are resilient,” Simoni said. “For some people it will be difficult to recover.”



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