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COVID-19: Effect on Student’s Mental Health

By Taylor Killens

Savannah Ape is a fourth-year student at the University of Cincinnati. She began as an early childhood education major and then decided to switch to social work. She ended up combining social work and early childhood education and went into interdisciplinary studies. Ape is expected to graduate this spring. Growing up, her parents were divorced. There was a huge contrast between her mother and father's house. Her mother ended up remarrying and her mother's husband ended up being a huge Trump supporter. Savannah stated, "I feel like a lot of conservatives have this mindset that if you work hard, you are going to be okay, you're going to have a happy life, you don't have any reason to be anxious and my mom was a very anxious person."

Pre-COVID, Savannah was a social butterfly. She would describe herself as outgoing, a morning person, she felt productive and motivated, friendly, and considered herself as a person with a lot of energy. She would usually wake up an hour before class, make herself breakfast, and ease into her day. Savannah said, "I think I was really optimistic, and I had the idea in my head, "Oh this is just going to be a few months and then when it started reality set it and this could be a really long time." She also participated in three or four sessions with CAPS. "It was alright, I haven't really reached out throughout COVID."

She didn't continue with CAPS because she didn't have a connection with her therapist, she didn't find the sessions to create change in her life and didn't see CAPS as something worth paying for. During-COVID, now that COVID has been going on for nearly a year Savannah hasn't endured much excitement, her daily life is repetitive, students aren't able to go to class or enjoy campus life, increased sleep, and there's a lack of social interaction. "Today for example, I woke up 30 minutes ago, and that's a routine with me. It's a good day if I wake up before 10 o' clock. Just because I don't have to go anywhere, all my classes are online. I do have one-person class, but that's once a week. "Savannah hasn't seen a lot of people except the people she works with, the people she currently lives with, and occasionally her family.

During COVID she found herself to be an anxious person. If she felt anxious, she decided to smoke. A typical day for her is to wake up, smoke a bowl of marijuana, rest while she's high, after her high goes down she's typically very tired and decides to take a nap and anticipates work throughout the day, and the endless cycle continues.

When asked if she always smoked marijuana or if it was a habit she picked up during COVID she said, "I definitely smoke more now because of COVID, but I started in high school and when I got to college my friend group and I did it together". When asked what campus is like now, she said, "It's a ghost town. There are still some people walking on campus, but in between classes those 10 minutes where there would be the wave and the crowd of people that you would have to navigate around, that's just gone, you might see someone way up the road. It's kind of lonely, feels weird, and like a dream.

Apel stated, "Now that we're getting close to a year, I feel exhausted and drained." She is enrolled in one in person class this semester that meets once a week on Monday's."I find myself not wanting to go more often. I'm used to being able to sleep in longer and not get up. Even though it would be wonderful to go to class, I don't know if my motivation is different to actually go". During COVID Savannah also found it hard to take care of herself. She did not receive the support from her family during her mental health crisis. Her parents shied away from working through her mental health issues because they didn't want to face their own. Due to the lack of social interactions that she's had during COVID, she finds it hard for her to push herself to talk to someone because of her increased social anxieties. It is important that colleges provide an efficient role in their student's mental health, especially during COVID-19. Playing a better role will not only increase the performance in the classroom, but also begin healthier lifestyles for students.

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