The nation is facing a pandemic. As restaurants and bars close, travel advisories are released and classes are put online, uncertainty looms. How does this pandemic affect our mental health?
According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, “Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.”
William Deal, Missouri State University’s psychology department head, acknowledged that students are worried about the future of their studies, living situations and health.
“My suspicion is the majority of anxiety students may be experiencing is related to the uncertainty of how this will unfold,” Deal said.
After interviewing several students, many would agree with Deal; they are uncertain about unemployment, paying tuition and staying healthy.
Sophomore Faith Sharp, undecided major, said that she has “two evils” to choose between. If she stays in her dorm, she feels she will be isolated. She said she could go back to St. Louis, where she is from, but she said she doesn't really have a home there as she grew up in foster care. Both of these options have led to anxiety and a fear.
Many students were able to relate to Sharp. Some are worried they could have the disease without realizing it. The CDC has alluded to this fact; it is possible to have the coronavirus and not know if an individual is in the early stages of the virus or asymptomatic. On the FAQ page related to COVID-19, it reads, “In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.”
Many students are staying with older family during this extended break. Senior geology major Lydia Hudson is staying with her parents who are over 65.
“I have so much anxiety about having it (COVID-19) and not knowing and then giving it to my family and they get really sick,” Hudson said.
Hannah Overby, senior creative writing major, echoed Hudson’s thoughts.
“I’ve been stressed not for myself, but for my grandparents, because I live with them,” Overby said. “I’m sad that I don’t get to be on campus anymore in my last semester of college, but I’m so relieved to reduce the risk of carrying it to the at-risk people close to me.”
Abigail Jones, a senior design, technology and stage management major, lives with bipolar depression. News of COVID-19 has made her reach new levels of depression she has not dealt with recently, she said.
“There's an animalistic panic mode activated in my brain,” Jones said. “But because my mixed state suggests depression, I am stuck in this dissociative state leaving me sluggish and plastered to the couch.”
Some students may enjoy staying home to relax on the couch. However for Jones, this only makes her mental health worse. Her thoughts can begin to spiral which leads to a depression. She said that because this is not basic anxiety or depression she believes there are not many resources out there for her to use.
“I just have to trust I can ride this out,” Jones said.
Faith Barrett, senior psychology major, said she worries about how her body would respond to the virus. This weighs on her mind.
“I definitely have anxiety with everything going on because I have a heart condition — and a terrible immune system — and I have no idea how my body would handle getting sick,” Barrett said.
The CDC and the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses have issued advisories to help.
One of the recommendations that the CDC published is to take a break from the news; the constant coverage of the virus can cause anxiety. For the complete list of recommendations look here.
NAMI wants people to remember that knowledge is power. According to NAMI’s website, “Understanding the factors that affect a person’s immune response to COVID-19 will matter as much as, or more than, understanding the virus.”
They want people to focus more on how the virus affects your mental and physical health, rather than trying to understand the exact makeup of the virus. For NAMI’s resources, click here.
If you are dealing with mental roadblocks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.