By Brianna Lopez
Mental health has been a struggle for college students to achieve while balancing classes, homework, jobs, and their social lives. Now, with the shift to social distancing due to COVID-19, mental health issues have been amplified in many and Barry students are no exception.
Athletic training sophomore Bianca Canovas said that she has been increasingly stressed due to having to adjust to the different learning experience.
Political science junior Miranda Tinkey agrees, adding that as someone who struggles with pre-existing mental health issues, she believes it has been harder than normal for those who struggle with mental health to adapt to the virtual learning environment.
Dr. Hossiella Longoria, director of the counseling center at Barry, lists some causes she believes are contributing to the suffering of Barry students during this time.
“I believe the biggest impact that virtual learning is having on students is the lack of social interaction,” said Longoria.
Many students have complained of having frequently cancelled classes or having to teach themselves via PowerPoints provided by the professors. This makes the students feel like they are not valued by their professors, which in turn lowers their motivation.
This is something Tinkey identified with as seeking to balance personal, academic and professional aspects of her life leaves her feeling “almost melancholic,” she said.
“The unanswerable questions hang regarding what the future holds and whether or not life will ever return to at least somewhat what we remember as ‘normal’,” said Tinkey.
Despite these gloomy feelings, both Tinkey and Canovas believe that Barry is doing their best to support students during this time.
“I honestly think Barry is doing a good job trying to keep the life on campus and online, by the events they have been having on campus and online,” said Canovas.
According to Longoria, the center offers free and confidential counseling services to all students residing in Florida. This includes resident students living on-campus and students living off-campus in Florida. These services are provided via a telehealth video conferencing platform.
In addition, the center hosts webinars to highlight coping strategies for some of the most common mental health concerns in college students. Most recently was the webinar called “My Best Self 101” that occurred on Nov. 19, which focused on self-gratitude and self-compassion.
On Dec. 1, the center will host Fresh Check Day, an in-person event to raise awareness regarding mental health and suicide prevention.
The center also provides drop-in sessions for students. These sessions are 30 minutes long without needing an appointment. Students can use the link in the counseling center’s Instagram bio (@barryu_counselingcenter) during scheduled drop-in times and will be directly connected with a counselor.
“As the director of the counseling center, now more than ever, I think we have to think outside the box and meet students where they are at by providing innovative and engaging opportunities for them to learn and practice skills to improve their emotional wellbeing,” said Longoria.
However, she does note that part of the work starts with the students themselves. She encourages students to practice self-care, which she says can only be effective if it is planned as part of a student’s daily routine.
Some common self-care tips that Longoria suggests are getting a good amount of sleep, eating well, and exercising three times per week for at least half an hour. Less common but still effective tips are having gratitude and noting this gratitude in a journal.
Students can also take advantage of the events on campus to stay connected with their peers and to keep a routine going if that is something that makes them feel more “normal” during this unprecedented time.
Most importantly, Longoria tells students to speak up. They can talk to professors about their struggles or use the resources from the center. Whatever form of support a student seeks, Longoria believes that the sooner they get it, the faster they will begin to feel better.
“We are working hard to break the stigma and I want students to know that it’s okay to not be okay. And more importantly, they are never alone,” she said.