No segment of the population has been untouched by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, a growing number of people have become infected by the novel coronavirus, some individuals becoming seriously and even fatally ill. This healthcare crisis has impacted people in a number of other ways as well, including emotionally, financially, and socially. One community cohort that has seen life particularly become upended is that of college and university students across the country. The need for understanding the unique problems and protecting the wellbeing of college and university students during the COVID-19 pandemic is significant.
Sudden Closure of College and Universities: Student Life for Many Abruptly Ended
Virtually everyone among the general public was blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as late as late February or early March, few people in Southern California, indeed few individuals anywhere in the country, imagined that the nation would be in a state of lockdown. The sudden closure of colleges and universities across the country was not something that college students (or anyone else) believed was on the radar when word of the COVID-19 virus became more widespread.
The bottom line is that when colleges and universities announced on-campus learning was coming to an end, the lives of students at these institutions of higher learning were upended in virtually unimaginable ways. Students suffered profound disruptions and losses on a number of levels:
- Academic careers and plans for professional careers were spun into a state of chaos
- Young people saw their real-world social networks torn asunder
- Students lost their direct support systems
- Young adults lost their jobs
- College and university students lost their homes
- Many college and university students were forced to retreat to their family homes
Physical Health and College Students
The massive upheaval caused to college and university students has the objective of keeping them and other individuals associated with higher education in the United States physically safe and healthy. Events moved so quickly that little attention initially was paid to the mental and emotional health of these young people.
Impact of COVID-19 Restrictions on Mental and Emotional of College Students
Mental health professionals who’ve been involved with the shutdown of college campuses and with the student diaspora report significant rises in certain types of mental health conditions among these young people at this time. These include:
- Substance use disorder
- Dual diagnoses of mental health condition and substance use disorder
As of the COVID-19 state of emergency in California and elsewhere, mental health providers and substance abuse and addiction specialists have found themselves relying heavily on telemedicine, also known as telepsychiatry. For college and university students who have previous experience in obtaining mental health or substance abuse and addiction treatment services, the transition to telemedicine has proven challenging in a good many cases. On the other hand, students who are new to mental health and substance abuse assistance generally seem to have relatively easily taken up telemedicine and telepsychiatry because they’ve no other modality with which to compare and contrast.
Importance of Staying Connected
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, college and university students from coast to coast experienced events that they could never have imagined. In a matter of days, schools closed campuses and these young people lost everything from their homes to their social networks. In some cases, events moved so quickly that some students ended up homeless when colleges and universities told students to vacate dormitories.
Because immediate social networks in the brick and mortar world have been so profoundly disrupted, it’s vital that college and university students maintain their primary social connections via digital media.
Supportive Technology to Aid College and University Students
Building on the vital necessity for college and university students to stay connected with their primary peers, they need to avail themselves of all suitable technology. Of course, there really is no cohort of people in the country more tech-savvy that people the age of typical college students.
There have been some unique apps developed for college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. A prime example of these apps is Nod, developed by Hopelab and Grit Digital Health. Nod is designed specifically in dealing with loneliness.
Recent research undertaken just prior to the COCID pandemic revealed that an increasing number of college and university students were battling loneliness and associated mental health issues. This situation is expected to grow more profound as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions remain in place to one level or another.
Ensure Safe Physical Environments for Students Upon Return to School
Odds are strong that colleges and universities will be engaged in on-campus classes by the fall of 2020. There is some discussion that some institutions of higher learning will have brick and mortar world campuses by the summer. In any event, no matter when schools resume on-campus classes, diligent care must be taken to ensure that students have safe physical environments, including classrooms, libraries, fitness centers, dining halls, dormitories, and other locations on campus. In addition, colleges and universities with fraternities and sororities also must have physical environments for their members.
At the heart of ensuring safe physical environments for students upon their return to school is developing comprehensive strategies to protect against COVID-19 contamination and to ensure that suspected contamination is remediated promptly.
Depending on the structure of a school and the resources on campus, this may necessitate the involvement of a reputable, experienced COVID-19 cleaning company. Organizations associated with a college or university particularly are likely to need assistance from “outside resources” like a coronavirus cleaning and disinfection company.