The student mental health pandemic

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“rain” by wwnorm / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sophia Maltese, Editor in Chief

How many times a day do you think about quitting?

I’ll be honest, I think about it sometimes — how nice it would be to rest for an entire day without emails to answer or Zoom meetings to attend, since this digital world has created the expectation that I am reachable 24/7. I’m often hesitant to even leave my computer while working, in case someone messages me or calls over Zoom.

It’s overwhelming. We all feel it. Even those of us who get good grades, have an internship, have friends and are involved on campus. Clearly, there is a mental health pandemic plaguing our peers.

The signs are there. In class, eyes barely visible above masks are sunken and tired. When professors ask the class how they’re doing, no one has the heart to answer “good.” We all mumble, unwilling to admit that we’re drowning in defeat.

Many of us have lost loved ones to COVID-19, and when the week of acceptable grieving time is over, we’re supposed to be back on our feet and ready to work. It seems like work is all there is left.

Without a spring break and with harsh course work, mental health among students is declining at an unsustainable rate. As I write this, the weather outside is beautiful, yet only a handful of students dot the quad. Normally, it would be filled with people studying and socializing. Now, it’s quiet.

I know we’re all tired. I know it’s unfair to preach to the greater powers that schedule school days about feeling isolated and overwhelmed when I have no idea about their reality. But despite this, the overwhelming presence of a mental health pandemic rages around me. My closest friends are questioning their place in the world, losing confidence, falling behind in classes and desperately wanting their final semester to be over.

I write this as a public request. The students need understanding. We need a break and not a half-baked mental health day. If something like that is going to happen again, please make the day off mandatory and not hastily scheduled in the middle of midterms. 

Not only do I see students falling behind, I see their spirit leaving them. Many of us are faced with life-defining decisions to make, jobs to apply to and a professional world that grows colder and smaller every day.

I know many who have taken advantage of the resources the Counseling Center offers, and the employees there genuinely care and do a great job. Still, it’s not enough. We continue to drown. We continue to be pitted against our University over decisions on tenure, shortened breaks and department and budget cuts.

If the administration really cares about the students as much as they say they do in their once-a-month email updates, then maybe they would ask us what we want instead of guessing. There has been a disturbing lack of transparency and communication. This needs to change so that the University can better use the resources we provide to accommodate the changing needs of the student body. 

I thought the mission of John Carroll was to “inspire individuals to excel in learning, leadership and service in the region and in the world.”

Well, I don’t think I’ve encountered a single person who is “inspired” this semester.

It’s amazing how an institution can tear itself apart from the inside. We all need to work together to get through this. It should not be the students against the faculty against the administration. We need compromise and understanding. We need patience. We need a single, blessed, no-class, no-assignment, restful, healing day off.

Students, help me share your voice. For those who agree with what I have written here, leave your name as a comment like you’re signing a petition, asking the higher-ups to take a minute to understand that mental health is a struggle for the majority of us.

Is that so impossible?