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How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted my mental health, what it means for other college students

(Nick Bolton/Unsplash) Prevalence of depression symptoms in the US increased more than 3-fold during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 8.5% before COVID-19 to 27.8% during COVID-19,

David Rosario
Connector Contributor 

My 2020 changed quite drastically when COVID-19 came about. I felt less free and confined to my home, which is problematic for me. I have been battling with depression since high school and staying inside reminded me of bad times. While at home, I did not have the same distractions that I had on campus to uplift me.

Once UMass Lowell closed classes and transitioned into a virtual environment, I was at home since I did not have a job. The only other place that gave me a reason to go outside was my internship as a writer at Lowell Community Health Center (LCHC), but, UMass Lowell prohibited interns from going to their worksites. My walks to UMass Lowell and LCHC were taken away, leaving stores and fast-food drive-thrus the only places for me to visit.

It was tough to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic because I felt lazy. I completed my school work and internship hours online, but my sleep schedule became erratic. Life seemed like a big blur. I was missing opportunities to connect with others, losing the chance to build on my professional insight, and trying to figure out what I would do during the summer.

There had been a chance for me to work at UMass Lowell temporarily in the summer, but that fell through once COVID-19 arose. The goals and expectations I set forth crumbled, in what seemed like, an instant. Once I finished with the spring semester and my internship, I was left waiting for things to get better. Unfortunately, I was not the only stressed college student in the United States.

“Researchers observed a notable increase in self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression during the onset of COVID-19. During this time frame, major policy changes, such as the switch to remote learning, took place. These changes also took place during the end of classes and final exams, which is one of the most stressful times for students during any academic term,” Pharmacy Times said.

As I waited, I wasted time using my smartphone, playing video games, listening to music and watching TV shows. I enjoyed not having many responsibilities, although I got sick of my routine at times. I felt unproductive and did not do anything to keep myself busy.

There were days where I felt fearful and negative. I had a few friends and family members that I could talk to about the world, and my loved ones helped me avoid loneliness. Their outlooks and presence made me think more in the present and less in the faraway future.

My bad habits lasted well into the summer until I started to occupy my mind with more tasks. Around the middle of July, I started to write and read more, bettered my diet, and worked out at least two or three times a week. This approach made time go by quicker and kept me from overthinking.

Luckily, I have not been feeling purposeless since I changed parts of my lifestyle. The virtual experience at UMass Lowell has been unique and something that I am grateful for. I appreciate the opportunity to continue completing my English degree.

There are many young students who may feel the same way I once did, especially those considering or starting college. They may feel less motivated and struggle to see the positives in the situation they are in. It is quite saddening to know that many freshmen will not get to experience college as I did years ago.

“Prevalence of depression symptoms in the US increased more than 3-fold during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 8.5% before COVID-19 to 27.8% during COVID-19,” a study conducted by JAMA Network Open said.

People with lower incomes were more likely to have symptoms of depression than those with higher incomes. There were a few things that could have triggered people to feel depressed, like job security, trouble managing finances, or fear of losing possessions.

That is why we must guide our youth and be good influences. We must come together as a society to support one another. Our youth needs guidance and assurance that things will be okay.

College students may still have trouble adjusting to remote learning. These days are unpredictable, so I urge students to be aware of themselves. It is easy to get into a funk and let life slip away. Depression is a powerful force and I believe our society must continue to acknowledge how it impacts our youth.

UMass Lowell offers counseling services, through phone or video chat, which is something students should take advantage of. In addition, there are more helpful resources to find online. If students feel uncomfortable with talking about their feelings to family or friends, they must know there are people who want to help.

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