Students’ mental health is suffering due to the prolonged isolation

Meeting new people, attending lectures and going to campus social events and parties are a huge part of the traditional college experience. 

The shift to a more distant lifestyle, both physically and socially, has had a huge impact on students. Social isolation has forced many to shift their way of life to something completely foreign: being alone. 

This is especially true for students. For many, college is one of the most social times in a person’s life. 

Due to COVID-19, the university has implemented three learning modules including fully online, blended or face to face. Judging from the number of students on campus since the start of the semester, most professors and students have opted to partake in online-only instruction. 

Physical classes turned to Zoom meetings and study sessions were all done virtually. Due to this shift, students are not receiving the usual amount of social interaction that they did in past semesters. 

Virtual education affected many students and their mental health. The virus led to a curfew and the closure of restaurants, bars and clubs. This essentially ended the interaction of young adults.

Many young adults have struggled with the sudden and forced isolation and found themselves feeling alone. According to the CDC, “younger adults reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation during quarantine.” 

Not being able to interact within six feet of others has been difficult for many of Georgia State’s students. Humans are social by nature, and going from a life on-campus surrounded by hundreds of people in downtown Atlanta to being confined within one’s living space was the hardest change for people to accept. 

Junior Daniel Moreno was shocked when his semester turned to online instruction back in March and said it was difficult for him to adjust. 

“It was so easy to talk to people before,” he said. “Now, I feel like it has definitely made it hard to make connections with other students. It’s just a completely different atmosphere, and it’s so crazy to think about school before all this and how busy and social everything was.”

Going online has not only been hard for students socially but also organizationally. Due dates and assignments from different classes can become overwhelming to keep in order.  

Being organized and clear-headed is a large component of mental health. Research done by Intermountain Healthcare in Nevada stated that organization can reduce stress, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve sleep.     

Senior Layla Amar believes that online instruction has made organizing her schedule much more difficult.

“It is a lot harder to keep track of my schedule,” she said. “Before, I associated certain days with certain classes. Now, I have so many due dates, and it’s hard to keep them straight.”

The changes to everyday campus life have taken effect. Students who would normally gather in libraries and coffee shops have moved their entire operation to houses and apartments. Study sessions that were done in large groups are now online and are less personalized. 

Self-care is a vital factor in being a well rounded and healthy student, and this is especially true now. Mental health, while it has always been important, is something that deserves special attention during this prolonged period of isolation. 

The university has recognized the possible negative effects on students’ mental health. The Georgia State Counseling Center has set up many resources to help students cope and manage stress and improve their mental health. 

Resources include online appointments with a registered counselor, virtual wellness programs that connect students to weekly mental health resources and virtual events, and even an after-hours on-call crisis counselor. 

“This whole process of quarantine and online classes just proves how mental health is so important, especially as a student,” Amar said. “Although the stress of the pandemic took a considerable toll on my mental health, it forced me to look deeper at myself and in time will ultimately improve my overall health.” 

Students who are concerned about their own or another’s immediate safety should call the Georgia State University Police Department at 404-413-3333 on campus and 911 if they are off campus.