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Mental Health Impact Pre and Post-Pandemic

Taylor Sawyer

It is no secret that mental health concerns are at the top of the minds of college administrators across the country, as well as returning students. However, hearing students talk about the effects brings it closer to home.
Emma Gorski, a Junior student athlete at Merrimack College, expresses her concerns with the pandemic and her mental health throughout this year.

“There were a lot of major factors due to COVID that made it mentally tough. As a student athlete, the constant concern of getting contact traced hung over my shoulder,” Gorski says. “In times like COVID-19, people really need their families and that is an area that I missed out on. I was unable to fly home for Christmas, and this was extremely difficult for me and definitely took a toll on my mental health.”

The outbreak of the pandemic has impacted college students tremendously, especially because they are growing from adolescents into the world of adulthood, and it is a time where they are trying to find themselves being off on their own away from their parents. Students relied on their own independence to get by, and it was hard for
them to lean on families and friends when being in school remotely and having to stay socially distant from others.

“As life is starting to get back to normal, students are trying to relearn how to be themselves again, gain their confidence back, and improve their relationships. It is a work in progress and I know that at the end of the day this is going to make me stronger and it gives me a chance to kind of restart my college experience,” Gorski says.

For almost a year and a half, we have been told to be separated by a distance of six feet, which results in students feeling isolated and lonely at times. Our relationships with others had been moved from in person contact to being completely virtual. Ever since the outbreak, there has been a huge adjustment. Students have had to relearn the social skills that they had before the pandemic that were not used for a very long time.

Merrimack College’s Mental Health Clinician, Marianne Specker, states that “Since the pandemic, there has been a state of uncertainty, and a lack of predictability. We definitely have gotten more information, and I think that has helped reduce some of the anxiety and stress that we are feeling but we are still adjusting to what this new normal looks like.”

College students have gained new stressors, and it is definitely difficult trying to figure out how to be social again in a college environment on a campus. Specker shares some helpful tips on how to help college students through these tough times.

“Just having a moment to slow down, relax and take a breath can be very helpful. Even if it is finding a distracting activity, like coloring or drawing, because you are really focused on what you are doing, which makes us get out of our thoughts and our heads,” Specker says.

Specker talks about many different breathing techniques, exercises and apps that students’ can download to help manage their stress and anxiety during this time of change.