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After news spread about the University of New Haven closing for the remainder of the spring semester, taking care of students’ mental health should be the university’s top priority during the coronavirus pandemic.
Students are doing their best to cope with the stress and anxiety from the pandemic, and they say that the media is not making it easy for them.
“The news is definitely causing me distress,” says sophomore political science major Tamara Laguna. “They are posting a lot of negative stories and also speculating on what the future will hold.”
Ariana Weinstein, a sophomore community psychology major, said, “The virus is all that’s being talked about and there are so many different opinions. It’s a little excessive and making the public react dramatically by doing things like stockpiling groceries and unnecessary items.”
However, some students, such as legal studies major Samm DiTerlizzi, don’t blame the media for their anxiety.
“I am feeling stressed and discouraged during this time, however, I am hesitant to say that the news is part of my overall state of mind,” said DiTerlizzi. “I am already experiencing stress, since I am not able to work nor go to school as of right now, and the end of this situation seems indefinite.”
Charles Anderson, director of the university’s counseling and psychological services, says that news around coronavirus and its impact can bring stress to students.
“Being thrown off your daily routine and deprived of social support you might get from friends and classmates adds another layer of stress,” said Anderson. “For example, our needs for safety, predictability, stability, connectedness, freedom, balance, and fun are not being met right now for a lot of people.”
According to a 2020 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, self-isolation and social distancing can also be detrimental to students’ mental health, causing fear, anxiety, or worry.
“I think social distancing is not the best term,” said Anderson. “What is really meant is physical distancing. Social distancing does imply isolation, but physical distancing is not about avoiding socializing, it’s about not socializing in person.”
However, officials are concerned that students are not taking the pandemic seriously. Young people in other states are spending their spring break in large groups, which has been strongly advised against.
“The only cure we have for COVID-19 right now is a healthy immune system and mindful awareness,” said counseling and psychology intern Albi Beshi. “It didn’t reach pandemic status because it’s extremely lethal, but because it is extremely viral and particularly harmful to those with respiratory trouble and/or compromised immune systems. It’s important for students to realize the brevity of this current global issue and their role in it.”
And while social media “can cause a lot of problems,” said Anderson, “social media is a blessing under the current circumstances. It helps us stay connected and avoid social isolation while not putting ourselves physically at risk.”
Students may also find that they cannot communicate the way they want to, but the University of New Haven staff clinician Christine Pitotti says there are many ways to stay virtually connected with friends and family, such as streaming services, gaming, and video chatting.
Pitotti said the university is working on offering interactive online engagement opportunities, “which students should keep an eye out for.”
Keeping busy is important when it comes to combating anxiety.
“This is a great time to reconnect with pets, nature, family, and to dive into those projects you’ve been setting aside forever,” said Anderson.
Anderson said students should have received an email from counseling and psychological services about their services during the pandemic. The counseling services webpage is on MyCharger.
For tips and updates on how to stay healthy during this pandemic, visit Instagram accounts @dogsinthehalls and @thecownselingcow.