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CSULB students report feelings of declining mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic

Depression and anxiety have increased among college students in the past year.

According to a survey conducted by a Boston University researcher, 83% of students said that their mental health has highly affected their academic performance. Of these same students, two-thirds are dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the end of the semester approaches and finals pile up, students at Long Beach State are struggling to simply get by and are experiencing their mental health declining.

“I don’t know if I’m passing my classes right now,” Camelia Ferrer, a second-year civil engineering major, said. “It went by really fast but I feel like I didn’t learn much.”

Like Ferrer, many students feel that the quality of their education has been greatly compromised, as it can be easy to get distracted while taking online classes.

“Because everything is online, I tend to do things last minute,” Ferrer said. “If we were on campus I would be more on top of my game.”

Ferrer said that her inability to perform in school has caused her to feel overwhelmed and anxious.

“I just don’t know how to bring it up to my parents, how to be like, ‘I need therapy,'” Ferrer said. “A lot of Asian parents don’t believe in that stuff.”

Ferrer is of Pilipino descent and said for most of her life, she never understood the concept of depression. This is because in many cultures, there is an underlying stigma regarding mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Asian and Pacific Islanders are less likely to seek help from mental health professionals than other races or ethnic groups.

At CSULB, students are offered resources that are intended to help them through difficult times, like Counseling and Psychological Services as well as a variety of workshops and presentations that help with distress and suicidal ideations.

While these resources are available throughout the school year, the utilization of their services has seen a drastic decline since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Director Bongjoo Hwang.

“This is a national trend, when students are not around, on campus, usually the service sector utilization drops even if services are available through phone calls and Zoom sessions,” Hwang said.

According to Hwang, these resources are mentioned throughout orientation and Associated Students, Inc.’s Week of Welcome but the majority of students unintentionally miss it.

“I feel like students who are already struggling have a hard time going out of their way to find help,” Eyja Groome, a second-year journalism major, said.

Groome has spent nearly two months in therapy after dealing with feelings of depression and exhaustion from recent events.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in some shape or form. For Groome, it has halted her sense of identity.

“Growing up, the ultimate goal for me was to get into college, and I didn’t really have to think about anything past that,” Groome said. “Now that I’m here, it’s just like everything after college is a question mark. That just freaks me out.”

It took Groome nearly a year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic to seek help from a therapist. The decision came after a long and serious conversation with her mother.

“When students come in for our services, it’s not typically one problem,” Hwang said. “[Other problems] will affect their academic performance in some way, so they’re always connected with each other.”

There are currently 19 counselors and mental health officials CSULB students can receive aid from at CAPS.

While Hwang’s goal as a director is to raise awareness for the services they offer through CAPS, he urges students to learn more about mental health and the ways in which they can not only help themselves, but those around them.

Hwang said that success is within reach.

“One person at a time,” Hwang said. “If they can make changes and get better. And if I see that through my work as counselor, that [is] success.”

Resources

 

In case of an urgent or dire emergency, students are able to contact CAPS at any time at (562) 985-4001. CAPS services are currently online.

CSULB also offers two CAPS peer programs, Beach Buddy and Project Ocean.

Beach Buddy provides peer mentoring to share support services and emphasizes de-stigmatizing mental health. Project Ocean also works to increase mental health awareness and teach suicide prevention.

Visit CSULB’s online list of mental health resources, which not only shows campus resources, but national and local hotlines and care centers.

Call (800) 273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

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