The Christian Science Monitor : 2020-12-07

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HUMANITY BEHIND THE HEADLINES On college campuses, one surprising relief from pandemic stress: friends By Noah Robertson / Staff writer paradoxica­l demographi­c when it comes to the effects of COVID-19. They’re among the least vulnerable to its physical risks and among the most vulnerable to its mental ones. And since March, they’ve been at the fore of concerning trends in mental health, which experts say have now evolved into a national crisis. O livia Kane sat in her parked car, wondering what to do. She had just come from an abruptly canceled speech class, after her professor announced that two students had tested positive for COVID-19 and the class may have been exposed. Go to the health center, the professor said, and go home. But Ms. Kane didn’t know if she could. A commuter student, she lives with her family, Addressing the mental health crisis Even before the pandemic, research among younger adults showed a rise in anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation – and a correspond­ing jump in demand for college mental health services, says Ms. Horne. But that jump has since become a leap. Since March, per Active Minds’ research, some 80% of young people say their mental health has worsened. In a midsummer Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, more than 62% of 16- to 24-year- olds reported anxiety or depression. Around a quarter said they had seriously considered suicide in the last month. Such startling numbers are the end result of a complex series of events. The pandemic has inflicted physical harm nationwide. In WHY WE WROTE THIS Across college campuses, students and mental health providers alike are feeling stretched by the pandemic. Yet both groups are coming up with solutions – from telehealth and apps to good, old-fashioned camaraderi­e. and her father is considered high risk for the virus. What if she brought it back to him? After an hour undecided at the wheel, she drove home and quarantine­d in her brother’s room. She exited days later symptom-free, but shell-shocked. That experience crystalliz­ed the semester for Ms. Kane, a freshman theater major at Niagara University in New York. For her, as for millions of other students, the coronaviru­s has radically disrupted college life. Still, she carries on – rehearsing with a transparen­t mask in theater class and practicing dance moves remotely over Zoom. Such perseveran­ce is becoming all the more necessary, especially for people Ms. Kane’s age. More than ever, experts say, this moment demands a commitment to resilience and to that sense of camaraderi­e born out of collective trauma. “A really positive thing since the pandemic is that we can all relate to some degree of what it’s like for people who struggle every day due to mental health challenges” such as depression, anxiety, and distress, says Laura Horne, program director at Active Minds. Younger adults make up an almost turn, that threat of physical harm has limited in-person contact with mental health providers and forced arduous adaptation­s to virtual platforms. In effect, mental and physical health have become something of a zero-sum game. And the longer that game lasts, the more difficult its effects are to treat, says John Blackshear, dean of students in Student Affairs at Duke University and a clinical psychologi­st. Like many other colleges early this year, says Dr. Blackshear, Duke thought the pandemic would be an acute crisis, enormously disruptive but isolated in time. But as the pandemic proves more elastic, and students’ stress persists, mental health staff are being stretched like never before. In response, universiti­es nationwide have invested in a range of student support services: Expanded telehealth access, allowing for virtual counseling. Wellness app licenses for therapeuti­c activities like meditation. Increased publicity of available mental health resources, helping drive student awareness to record-high rates. They’ve also tried to smooth the • COURTESY OF OLIVIA KANE “Stay strong. You’re going to get through this. We all are.” • • – Olivia Kane, a freshman at Niagara University in New York, in a phone call to her friend as both students struggle to manage the stress from social distancing measures 12 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | DECEMBER 7, 2020 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­r.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW