Disturbing Trends in Student Mental Health

Comparing data from March 1st to April 15th to similar measurements from the prior six months for the same groups, an Arizona mental health service found evidence of current, and perhaps long-term negative effects on the mental health of students arising from Coronavirus. Student Assistance Programs & Training Services [SAP / TS] provides counseling to a variety of education institutions; for this report, SAP / TS monitored services to four client groups.

Paul Fleming, President of SAP / TS, says, “One way to gauge the impact of COVID-19 is to understand changes in the percentage of students using our voluntary programs.” These diverse educational structures were studied:

High School; 5,000 students on 14 campuses in 5 urban cities.
  • Campus closed, utilization dropped to 56% of the prior six-month average.
Community college: 22,000 students on 6 urban sites, 1 city; 10% attend online.
  • Campus closed, utilization dropped to 85% of the prior six-month average.
University 1; 35,000 online students worldwide.
  • Services in place; utilization increased by 83% over the prior six months.
University 2; 5,000 online students nationally.
  • Services in place; utilization increased by 450% over the prior six months.

“We understand increased utilization in online university settings as its mostly adult population pursues advanced education, while working and raising a family. However, continued use from closed campuses is surprising as those students are not in the daily presence of teachers and staff, the best motivators to seeking counseling,” Fleming points out. In the four groups, primary counseling issues were the same, stress, anxiety and depression. A recent article in CNN News considered mental health needs for post-pandemic, noting that mental health issues in children could rise 400% from their current baseline. “Another epidemic,” says Fleming, “one with emotional damage beyond comprehension for individuals and societies. Help must start now and go on without fail through a commitment to care similar that provided to physical damage of COVID-19.”

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