The Highs & Lows of College Student Mental Health in 2020

The Highs & Lows of College Student Mental Health in 2020

As we look back on 2020 and the previous academic semester, it is easy to see that a lot has changed. This year has been tough on students for a variety of reasons. Before March, one of the common concerns among college students was FOMO or the “fear of missing out.” FOMO used to mean staring at your phone and being upset that you are missing going out with your friends because you stayed at home to study or looking at social media to see all of the fun everyone your age is having, while you are wondering why things could not be like that for you. Now the last 9 months have been filled with a different kind of “fear of missing out.”

This FOMO is the fear of missing out on the moments that you knew you would’ve had if the pandemic never happened. For student athletes, it’s the sadness they feel about missing their sports seasons toward which they have worked for their entire lives. For juniors it might be the FOMO of missing out on their study abroad experiences. For students in any grade, it might be the fear of missing out on leaving their parents’ house, having independence for the first time, being able to make friends, and having the college experience they imagined. For freshmen, it might be the fear of not meeting anyone and not forming life-long friendships. For upperclassmen, it’s the pain of knowing what college life was like before this and not knowing when it will get back to normal, or at least when they can stop looking at their computer screens. It is not any easier for high school seniors who likely missed out on prom and spent their entire final year at home unsure of what life will be like after this. College-aged students have experienced what many have never faced--knowing that they will never get this time back and will never get to experience what they always expected college would be.

Before March, there was a mental health crisis on college campuses and now there is even more reason for concern as students move forward carrying the weight of this past year.  But as schools stay vigilant about their students’ mental health, they should be applauded for a series of welcomed changes in mental health support which have resulted in a lot of wins for students. For example, coaches are beginning to talk about the mental health of their athletes for what in many cases seems like the first time. College football mental health awareness week put the issue of mental health in the spotlight. Many schools are investing in tele-mental health and other support systems for their students. Also, at many schools, students are speaking up and asking for more support and challenging their institutions to keep their mental health in mind. Some students are even using their time this semester to raise awareness for mental health causes. College presidents even identified student mental health as one of their top priorities in the ACE Fall Term 2020 Survey.

Sometimes hardship brings on positive change. At Christie Campus Health, we hope for more higher education mental health wins in 2021.

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