Mental Health in the COVID-19 Era

The new normal doesn’t have to be daunting.

Depression and anxiety can affect anybody and can be hard to notice in others, quickly spiraling out of control, to the point of debilitation. Fortunately, plenty of resources are available that provide assistance.

With the frequency of mental health issues on the rise, our awareness is especially important. Not only is suicide one of the leading causes of death within the 15-24 age range, the national suicide rate has increased to 35% between the year 2000 and 2017. Here in the state of Pennsylvania, the situation appears to be even worse with the number of suicides increasing from 1,348 in the year 2000 to 2,023 in the year 2017. The data show a 50% increase in annual suicides.

While depression can affect anyone, college students are especially prone. In the fall of 2019, 19.3% of college students reported being diagnosed with depression, and 23.5% with anxiety. In the spring of 2020, these numbers rose to, 22.3 and 27.4, respectively. The data show a 16% increase in depression and a 66% increase in anxiety diagnoses, these numbers do not account the countless others who suffer without a diagnosis.

Of course, it is no surprise a spike in depression and anxiety has occurred this year, given some bleak circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Boston University conducted a study and found it to be a contributing factor. This study found that symptoms of depression have tripled since the beginning of COVID-19’s effects on our daily lives. While the precise cause of these changes is unclear — social, economic, or anything else — the important takeaway is that there is a real problem we need to address.

You might be wondering what can be done? First and foremost, spread awareness of resources available. HACC’s wellness resource page — found here — offers various paths for HACC students to receive mental health assistance. HACC partners with Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP Services, Inc., a local counseling agency, to offer up to three free sessions per semester to students enrolled in for-credit courses. This counseling is confidential and accessible any time of day. In addition to mental health services offered, they list other trusted resources such as The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available at 1-800-273-8255; the Trevor Lifeline (Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth), available at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386); and many others. There is no shame in utilizing these resources; we all go through some tough times in our lives and need a helping hand.

It is essential to know these resources are available to you and you are not required to do this alone. Millions of college students in the US face depression. We need to have more candid conversations about mental health with each other. Furthermore, being aware of resources and sharing them with each other is one way to help those in need. If you have a friend or family member who might need help, direct them to one of the many resources available.