A recipe for a mental health disaster

Quinnipiac’s COVID-19 rules have strained students’ well-being

Nicole McIsaac, Associate News Editor

February. A month of many celebrations, including one for mental health awareness.

As a person who’s always battled crippling anxiety, I can attest to never feeling worse in my life than I do right now due to the endless worries provided by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although I wouldn’t want anything else than being back with my friends and pursuing the career of my dreams, residing on a college campus during a draining pandemic adds a massive amount of fuel to the burning fire of a downward spiraling mental struggle.

To put this into perspective, a study observed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an increase of United States hospital emergency room visits among children and young adults for severe mental health needs in 2020. These results come as no shocker as they portray the extreme effects that the past year’s events and disasters have had on all individuals within society, especially younger ones.

The fears of COVID-19 are real and are very much prominent in all forms of every activity we do as college students. In addition, these terrors find ways to take over all forms of peace that are left from the pre-pandemic lifestyle.

Illustration by Connor Lawless

Despite letting a huge sigh of relief out when realizing the university implemented more health and safety measures for this semester, I can’t help but focus on the little faults that have slipped through the cracks. These slipups could easily convert the campus environment into a detrimental disaster within weeks, days or even hours.

Quinnipiac University needs to do better — not only for the safety of the community, but for the students who are overcome with their fears and anxiety about being here.

For starters, students who have been quarantined due to exposure from clusters of cases within their buildings are allowed to walk unsupervised to the cafe for fresh air time. Although I do believe these students should have a chance to stretch their legs and take in the outside air, this is not the way to do so.

Realistically, these exposed students put the entire university at risk while waiting in line for their food, mail or even just sitting down for a second to eat and catch up with a friend. Even though the school encourages these students not to interact with others while using their fresh air times, it comes as no shock that it is unfortunately occurring and will have a direct impact on the positive cases on campus.

Along those lines, the introduction of the new, more aggressive and contagious strain of COVID-19 and the higher rates of positive cases on campus this semester just adds icing on top of the cake. All of these factors personally have me locked away in the depths of my dorm room with countless bottles of hand sanitizer and Lysol, praying that I won’t contract the virus and spread it to others around me.

And believe me when I say, it’s much more than just going to class, trying to grab a bite to eat at the dining hall or even just passing by someone else in the library. These COVID-19 fears live in the back of my mind and rattle me with frequent anxiety attacks while I try to do anything on campus anymore.

Sometimes these feelings of dread seem like they are taking over my whole life — whether it’s panicking after catching up with friends at a social distance, attending a hybrid class, awaiting a contact tracing email, overanalyzing after grabbing the doorknob to open my residence hall or even sitting down to eat and wondering if I scrubbed all of the bacteria off my hands. Every thought is about COVID-19.

I know I am not the only person or college student facing this struggle, hoping that no one else around me is noticing. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators oversaw a survey of 3,500 full-time college students and discovered 25% of students are feeling slightly anxious about COVID-19, 35% feeling somewhat anxious and 21% feeling very anxious.

This is a very unusual time to be a college student dealing with the stresses of coursework and adding these fears into your everyday routine doesn’t help. If you or anyone you are close with maybe showing signs of mental health disorders, reach out to the Office of Counseling Services here on campus. If you feel the need to go beyond Quinnipiac, there are people to talk to like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Please know you’re not alone. I hear and live your struggle every day and acknowledge your mental health needs during this time.