The COVID-19 pandemic influenced the way we all approach mental health. Being separated from friends and loved ones and remaining isolated for your own physical health and that of others was incredibly difficult for everyone. Many students had family members die or watched them struggle with COVID-19.
Anxiety and depression rose in staggering numbers, and we had to figure out the hard way the importance of self-care and prioritizing mental health above all. Students were struggling to maintain their studies through online classes and work; many students had to balance responsibilities within their homes with their schoolwork or had difficulty finding access to the internet or a laptop. Some professors understood this and were lenient with attendance and classwork. When hybrid classes ceased and fully in-person classes began, the professors and the administration seemed to think we could return to complete normalcy just like that. It was ridiculous and an oversight on behalf of the members of the community to think that there would not be a transition period where students needed more empathy and support than ever before.
College has always come with stress and anxiety for students, but throw in the residue of the pandemic trauma and the fact that we are still in a pandemic, and college students are facing a new kind of stress previous college generations have never faced before. Leniency shouldn’t have dissipated with the return to in-person classes. If anything, this is the time for extensions and sympathy. Students have been struggling and continue to struggle with their mental health. There should be a college-wide focus zoned–in on efforts to communicate and extend resources to all students. All professors should hold similar sentiments or treat their students similarly. It isn’t helpful for a student struggling with mental illness to receive leniency and extensions in one class but in another be failing and falling behind because both professors hold different standards and different understandings of what the student needs from them. To thrive and succeed, students need to feel supported and have their mental health concerns validated. The college failed to do this semester, and that is unacceptable. This semester should’ve focused on easing the transition, but just because this semester couldn’t give that to the students, that does not mean there shouldn’t be change for the next semester. The pandemic proved the importance of focusing on mental health above all. There needs to be a balance for students to thrive. There should be a common understanding or procedure that all professors can follow with students that reach out for help. If a professor can’t personally sympathize with the student that should not hinder the way they could help said student. Student accessibility services should consider restructuring so that the process for special circumstances can be easier and more open for everyone. Students can’t feel alone with their mental health issues anymore; it’s simply no longer acceptable.