Graphic by Lauren Sieh

By Lauren Sieh
Staff reporter

It’s nationwide and it’s right here.

Students across the nation and students across campus are experiencing an increase in mental health problems.

Mary Ann Smith, wellness coordinator, has seen a rise in mental health issues in students. They are struggling to cope and adapt to significant and swift changes. 

“When we first started the pandemic, it was very challenging for students to really navigate how to get help and where to get help,” said Smith.

Molly Just, campus minister, agreed. “there have always been students or people who are struggling with mental health.” 

Depression and anxiety are two prominent mental health illnesses that have shown up more in students. Stress and feeling of loneliness have also popped up.

Smith said, “Some common issues that I am seeing are stress, anxiety, depression, and a decline in academics.” 

Dawn Pleas, vice president of retention and student success, has seen it too.

Pleas said, “I see a lot more anxiety. It seems that people are depressed, or you can tell they’re depressed, but they’re trying to mask. I see a lot more destructive behavior. A lot of making poor choices.”

Just said, “I think loneliness is a crisis, which sometimes can be ironic because we live in a community where I feel like people are relatively well known or like plugged in. I think I have the most conversations about students feeling lonely.”

Last year, Just sat in on a Leadership class presenting their final presentation of their project for the semester. The class had to figure out how to combat the different trends of COVID-19.

Just said, ” One of the things that every single group said that students felt like the COVID-19 protocols at the college were really good. However, the need that they saw was that people wished that they had more of a community. People felt pretty isolated, either in their group of friends or in their teams.”

Feeling isolated and not knowing what is coming next has been hard for students to adapt to, especially for juniors and seniors planning for what happens after graduation.

Smith said, “They’re not sure what they’re going to do next. I’m more of that, and I would say because the economy impacts jobs as well. With all the layoffs happening, I feel like students are either wondering, ‘Did I pick the right career path? What am I doing next?'”

Pleas said, “People are just feeling stuck. Since we’ve had many people having to be quarantine and isolate, I think people feel like they’re in prison. They have a lot of time to think and process stuff.”

Southwestern has resources for students.

Pleas said, “You got to talk. You can’t just block it out. You can’t medicate it. You got to talk it out with somebody.”

Just said, “Reach out. Reach out to me. I am happy to connect or reach out to someone that you know and trust.”

There is also a mental health screening that is available for students at any time. The screening can help monitor, manage and give students suggestions if they are having issues. Click here to take the screening.