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COVID-Related Trauma and College Students

Updated: May 30, 2021

By: Melissa Fishman | Staff Writer

(Trigger Warning for Sensitive Audiences: Themes of Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide)

Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic a year ago, diagnoses resulting in confirmed mental illness cases have sky-rocketed to an all-time high for Americans. While COVID-19 which can infect people of all ages, mental illness seems to disproportionately develop in specific demographic circles, and especially in college-aged students.

At any given time, one in three adults in the United States will experience a mental illness or disorder. Recent investigations into mental health in America have reflected that those between the ages of 18 to 27 are among the most likely to categorize themselves as ‘highly distressed’ during the past year.

When examining the effects COVID can have on mental health in America, it is important to note that the likelihood that an individual may experience mental illness during the pandemic varies greatly from person to person. Both dependent and independent factors in a person’s life have potential to increase their likelihood of experiencing COVID-related mental illness.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), 6.8 million adults are affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder each year, with less than half receiving treatment. During the month of September, positivity rates for moderate anxiety and depression symptoms in Americans reached a peak of 8 in 10 people. This means a considerable amount of everyone’s friends, family, and neighbors have experienced feelings of anxiety or prolonged sadness during the pandemic.

Gender-based mental health issues have also been on the rise during quarantine, resulting in scores of those who identify as women to develop mental illness higher than their male-identifying counterparts. Additionally, COVID concerns based on gender reflect that women are 54 percent more likely than men to say their lives will be significantly changed once the pandemic is over.

Isolation due to quarantine has also severely limited vital mental health resources to the LGBTQ+ community, which in turn has caused mental illness to tighten its grip on them. Spikes in calls at LGBTQ+ and Transgender and Nonbinary (TGNB) help centers reported a record number of requests for reassurance and guidance since the pandemic began.

The month of June saw the largest increase in call volume at help centers after former President Trump removed certain protections for LGBTQ+ healthcare. In a truly shocking article from The Washington Post, a crisis call center, Trans Life, reported a 40 percent increase in call volume since the beginning of the pandemic.

Large groups of racial and ethnic minorities have also developed mental illness during the course of the pandemic. Mental Health America, a non-profit organization specializing in mental health awareness and diagnosis, indicated that those who identify as Black, African American, or Hispanic experience a higher prevalence of symptoms of COVID-related trauma and stressor related disorders than those who identify as White or Asian.

Factors that can also be linked to one’s likelihood of developing mental illness during the past year are consuming high quantities of social and traditional media, and having a history of mental health conditions among many others.

Those who feel that they are experiencing mental health complications at this time are encouraged to seek help however they can.

For LIU students seeking assistance, please see here.

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