While the university seems to have the coronavirus somewhat under control, there is a burgeoning challenge facing students as the semester progresses: worsening mental health conditions. As coursework picks up and the weather starts to get colder, the effects of the pandemic are undoubtedly weighing on our minds. The Old Gold & Black implores the university to begin planning, if they haven’t already, what to do when it’s too chilly to spend time in the tents and we all have 10 page papers to write and chemistry exams that require hours of focused study.
Long before the pandemic, mental health was a concern for many Wake Forest students. It was already difficult for a typical student to juggle his or her course load, extracurricular activities and social life. But now with the presence of a pandemic, students are expected to live their lives on campus as they were before — staying highly committed to their academics, engaging in campus activities and maintaining some semblance of a social life. It’s no wonder that students are struggling. Wake Forest should ensure that they are not gaslighting students for feeling lonely or unmotivated — getting to be on campus this semester does not remedy all of the emotional effects of living through a pandemic. We should be having a campus wide discussion about this reality, and acknowledge the absurdity of trying to be a succesful student during a time of unprecedented and profound loss.
Unfortunately, the resources in place to address mental health are not adequate in responding to the current demand.”
According to Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, a Yale Medicine psychiatrist, there is a field of medicine called disaster psychiatry that explains why students may be experiencing more extreme mental health concerns than they did previously. Similar to an event like 9/11, tragic events can greatly affect mental health. But unlike 9/11, the pandemic directly affects everyone’s lives and the threat surrounding the pandemic feels even greater because there is no clear end in sight. This trauma can also be compounded by any occurrences that could have alone caused stress for people in the past: family members’ health, financial struggles and strained relationships.
Unfortunately, the resources the university has in place to address mental health struggles are not adequate in responding to the current demand from the student population. Currently, two of the most instrumental offices that assist students — the Office of Wellbeing and the University Counseling Center — are understaffed, as reported by the Old Gold & Black. Prior to the pandemic, this understaffing would have been concerning. Now, it’s outright irresponsible. In a time of need, the university needs to prioritize mental health not only by facilitating more open discussions surrounding this topic on a campus-wide scale, but by filling the empty spots in the offices in order to provide students with the adequate resources they so desperately need and deserve during this time.