Student mental health declines during pandemic and remote learning


Image Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Helia Valadan sat in her stiff Ikea chair, hunched over and staring blankly at a computer screen–lingering at the edge of a mental breakdown. At least that’s how she felt most of the semester, the 19-year old Harper student explained. 

Valadan is not alone. According to an August 2020 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the pandemic’s effect on mental health identified that a disproportionate number of 18- to 24-year-olds — about one-quarter of those surveyed — had “seriously considered suicide” in the last 30 days.

As COVID numbers reach just below one million total cases in Illinois, Harper students face yet another semester of online learning going into the new year. Students across the country have had to adapt to learning at home and navigating a virtual classroom experience. 

Remote learning adds various challenges like technical difficulties, increased screen time, procrastination, and even major headaches from staring at a screen for too long. For others, the isolation has been devastating. 

For 18-year-old Harper student, Valeria Delgado all of these challenges make it hard to keep up with classes. Valeria said managing a schedule and structure independently is too difficult.  

“I can’t seem to figure out a schedule that works for me,” Delgado explained. “This year by itself is very overwhelming and challenging in every way possible and school just adds to the stress and makes things worse.” 

 An article from Inside Higher Ed added that “college health professionals are also monitoring a growing crisis among young adults struggling with mental health problems, including suicidal ideation, anxiety and depression related to the pandemic.”

While the decline in mental health does not surprise the staff at the Harper’s Hawks Care Center–which provides Harper students with free counseling services–they have not seen an increase in student requests for counseling. 

This is likely because students are too overwhelmed to reach out, explained Manager of Harper’s Hawks Care Center, Cynthia Washburn. 

“They are in survival mode,” Washburn stated. “[There is]  “pandemic fatigue” that many are experiencing – tending to self-care and their emotional well-being has fallen by the wayside and individuals are just trying to keep their heads above water.”

To help make it easier for students, the Hawks Care Center is now offering additional ways of support for students that include an app called  WellTrack. According to their website, Well Track “…is an online tool designed to help you understand your feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.”

This interactive, self-service mental health support app is available for free for all enrolled Harper students and  is confidential, anonymous, and secure. This video explains how it works. 

Harper counselors are still offering support to students via phone appointments rather than in person. Students can make an appointment at  Harper’s personal counseling page to fill out an online form at the bottom of the page.

Valadan said she was relieved to learn of this resource at Harper “ because not everyone can afford therapy and other mental health resources.” The freshman student said now that she knows, she plans to reach out for some help.  


Hawks Care Resource Center and Counseling Services