By Daniela Raymond
With pandemic numbers continuing to rise, so have depression rates. College students experience some of the highest cases of depression. According to a survey done by BBC news, 13% of students who were surveyed struggle with depression. In 2021, that statistic rose to 67%. The limited amount of activities and social events allowed due to COVID-19 has caused mental health to decline. With managing classes, academic events and clubs, college students have been feeling the effects of the pandemic more than ever. But is the SUNY Plattsburgh administration offering enough mental health services to better aid students through this tough time?
The SUNY Plattsburgh Health Center offers counseling services every fall and spring semester of the academic year, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only. While the college has taken some steps to help students through this difficult time, the pandemic has affected the ability to provide these services immensely. Christine Minck, the director for the Student Health and Counseling Center, mentioned that the health center has lost staff and finding time to schedule in all the students has created a long wait list.
Jaida Jenkins, a junior sociology major, turned to outside support for her mental health.
“I didn’t get much help at the health center here,” Jenkins said. “I tried going last semester; they were too busy to book. I reached out to an outside source off-campus for help, and they’ve been really helpful when the school hasn’t been able to provide those services.”
Minck mentioned that health services submitted a strategic plan for utilization of funds in early October, but have yet to hear back.
“I mean people are concerned about receiving one-on-one counseling, but that all that is a part of the plan that still needs to be approved,” Minck said.
The pandemic has brought upon and accentuated stressors, including fear and worry for loved ones or one self, and constraint on physical movement and social activities due to quarantine and major lifestyle changes.
COVID-19 has led to disruption to nearly every aspect of life. Students that entered the pandemic as freshman, who were able to go to parties on the weekends and socialize without masks are now second semester juniors, many returning to campus without the classic college experience on campus; a.k.a not being able to go out without the worry of a mask or social distancing.
Some students, like Amoudiatou Aboudoulaye, a senior fitness and wellness major, have found it difficult to re-adjust to regular life after quarantining, while also having valid COVID-19 concerns with mandates being lifted throughout the country. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that, “the statewide vaccine- or mask requirement for business will end though maks will still be required in school and other places where people congregate.”
“Everytime cases rise it makes me nervous of what restrictions or more vaccines we will have to get,” Aboudoulaye said. “Me, like many of my friends, were forced to get the booster to even stay on campus so that alone adds a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Aboudoulaye mentions that with quarantine, many students have grown comfortable with doing their studies in an at-home virtual setting. The transition to in-person class has been especially difficult for college students.
Students, who are hopeful for the future beyond the pandemic, are looking for ways to cope with it while on campus. With the health center having a waiting list, it may not be the best option for all students. Finding ways to get outside, attend club events, go hiking at the high point views that the North Country is known for, or skiing at White Face Mountain is important.
Furthermore, the health center also has plans for improving services.
Minck said, “As part of that strategic plan we are looking at increasing services through various contracts with Telehealth counseling services and in-person agencies that provide more counseling services.”