As the number of young people reporting symptoms of mental illness continues to increase, youth mental health research data reveals a pervasive mental health crisis among college students. Now, with the added disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, more students than ever are experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.
With over 14 million U.S. college students impacted by campus closures in March, the challenges and uncertainties of the coronavirus have taken a significant psychological toll on the mental wellbeing of students across the country.
In a mental health survey conducted by the CDC in late June, 25.5% of 18-24 year olds reported contemplating self-harm in the 30 days prior to completing the survey and 62.9% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. As most colleges and universities are conducting online or partially online learning, many students face barriers to accessing vital resources to help them cope with increased stress levels.
Compounded with previous mental health struggles, the loss of traditional support networks on campus has left many students to suffer in silence. These feelings of hopelessness and loneliness are further exacerbated by the loss of in-person classes and extracurricular activities, making it difficult for students to build and maintain strong personal relationships or find positive outlets to relieve stress. Without a supportive and uplifting social environment, navigating the everyday challenges of COVID-19 quickly becomes a debilitating mental burden.
These struggles become even more amplified for people facing particularly stressful circumstantial challenges. For students dealing with toxic home environments or unstable living situations, virtual learning adds an additional emotional strain to the already demanding task of managing online coursework. Similarly, students living in low-income households face the added difficulty of providing financial support for their families amidst the economic downturn, where climbing unemployment rates have disproportionately affected communities of color. These stressors, combined with the current reckoning of our nation’s painful legacy of racism sparked by continuous acts of racial injustice, serve as powerful reminders of the multidimensionality of our country’s current mental health crisis.
While access to professional treatment for anxiety and depression has become more important than ever, the pandemic has made it necessary for colleges and universities to limit the range of resources they offer, with many reserving in-person services for individuals requiring the most immediate care.
At Boston College, University Counseling Services (UCS) has replaced its traditional mental health services, including psychotherapy sessions and support groups, with video or phone-based telehealth services.
“We recognize that ongoing incidents of social injustice and racism in our country and around the world continue to have negative impacts on our students, and that trauma in the context of negotiating marginalized identities is a real and ongoing source of stress for many,” reads Boston College’s Counseling Services webpage, “UCS seeks to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the BC community and is committed to fully recognizing and valuing all identities, beliefs, or experiences.”
With more students seeking mental health care, factors including limited professional staff have introduced challenges in BC’s ability to provide support to all students in need. This, combined with the increased logistical and emotional challenges created by virtual therapy, prevents many students from seeking care in the first place. By serving as allies to those suffering from mental health conditions and raising awareness of the services that are available, we can work to strengthen existing support networks and address the mental health issues affecting students at BC and beyond.
If you’re interested in learning more about mental health services at BC, check out the following list of fall semester support offered by University Counseling Services:
Alone Together: A supportive group to connect with other BC students during this time of isolation and uncertainty. Wednesdays at 3 p.m. | See Event for Details
BC Connected: An interpersonal process group for BC Students: A support group dedicated to navigating a wide array of relationships. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons | Call UCS at (617) 552-3310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up
Anxiety Toolbox: Drop-in workshops to help students develop skills on how to manage anxiety. Tuesdays at 2 p.m. | See Event for Details
Far from Home: A drop-in support group for international students on campus. Wednesdays at 12 p.m | RSVP to email@example.com | See Event for Details
Far From School: A support group for graduate international students living at home, held every other week. Wednesdays at 8 a.m. | RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org | See Event for Details
HEAL: A virtual weekly support group for sexual assault survivors. Call UCS at (617) 552-3310 or email Johanna Malaga (email@example.com) or Morgan Sorenson (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sign up
University Counseling Group Therapy: UCS offers a variety of group therapy sessions. Email email@example.com for more information
Players Only Meeting: A supportive environment for athletes to connect and help each other cope with the stresses that come with athletics at this time. Fridays at 10 a.m. | Call UCS at (617) 552-3310 for more information
Pride > Pandemic: Drop-in meetings for LGBTQ+ students to discuss mental health while navigating the pandemic. Thursdays at 3 p.m. | See Event for Details
Support Group for BIPOC Students: A support group for BIPOC students to explore and process personal experiences. Sessions are co-led by clinicians of color. Thursdays at 2 p.m | See Event for Details
To learn more about services offered, call UCS at (617) 552-3310 or visit their website.
The following campus locations provide quiet, private spaces perfect for mindful reflection:
- Newton Campus: Trinity Chapel, Cushing East Lawn, Barat House back patio
- Upper Campus: O’Connell House grass patio, lawn behind Shaw House, St. Joseph’s Chapel
- Middle Campus: Labyrinth Garden, benches on Linden Lane, O’Neill Library Plaza
- Lower Campus: Landing on the Higgins stairs, Multi-faith Chapel, St. Ignatius Church
- Other Locations: McNeil Family Garden, the Reservoir, Residence Hall reflection spaces
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 | University Counseling Services: (617) 552-4444 (8:45AM–4:45PM, Monday–Friday) | University Health Services (617) 552-3225, ask to speak with the Psychological Emergency Clinician | BCPD (Emergency) (617) 552-4444 | BCPD (Non Emergency) (617) 552-4440