As Mississippi State University students return to campus, the stress of transitioning back to college life amidst COVID-19 hangs heavy in the air. Moving back to a familiar place can create an illusion of "normal life" that is a stark contrast to the reality of the world. Between juggling a variety of class delivery styles, virus-related anxiety and navigating social encounters, the strain on students' mental health only grows heavier.
Now is the time for students and people everywhere to step back and focus on making sure their mental health is sound.
Alana Buchanan, a junior majoring in psychology, is the secretary of Active Minds, an organization at MSU devoted to bringing awareness to mental health.
Buchanan gave her advice for students who may be experiencing loneliness. She provided insight on some things which could help students feel less anxious about being alone.
"My advice to those who are not used to being alone is to take care of yourself physically (eat well and exercise) and mentally. Enjoy a hobby, call up a friend or family member or text them if you haven't in a while to check on them, look at pictures with your friends and remember that you are not alone. They are there for you, as well," Buchanan said in an email correspondence. "Above all, just remember that you are not alone in this. Think positively."
There are many students who utilized the MSU Student Counseling Services because it provides the opportunity to speak with professionals in a time of crisis. Since the campus life is far from normal, students might assume these services are no longer available to them, but this is far from the truth.
Kim Kavalsky coordinates mental health outreach with MSU Health Promotion and Wellness and has been assisting Student Counseling Services with changes due to the virus.
Students have several opportunities to access counseling services. During business hours (Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), students may go to www.counseling.msstate.edu and enter a virtual waiting room to be assisted by the next clinician. Students also have the option to call the office at (662)-325-2091 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Kavalsky also gave advice to students who are feeling anxious during this tough time.
"Since none of us know when our lives will return to normal, it is understandable that we are feeling fear and anxiety. As human beings, we need social connection … We are going through all of these things together, so I encourage staying connected with others and leaning on each other for support (use Facetime, texting or Zoom)," Kavalsky said in an email correspondence.
Jeremy Baham, MSU's assistant vice president for student affairs, pointed out the availability of medical services on MSU's campus in an email.
"Longest Student Health Center is continuing to operate normally for our students, and that includes a staff psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner," Baham said.
Although giving and receiving treatment looks drastically different this semester, the mission behind MSU Student Counseling Services remains the same - to provide students and faculty with treatment. Lu Switzer, director of Student Counseling Services, wrote Counseling Services is continuing to assess the situation and adapt to student needs.
"In terms of future outlook, that is not easy to navigate. We are going along with the guidelines required by the university," Switzer said.
Student Counseling Services is offering a variety of services. They have moved all of their workshops online and have added two new courses which provide help for students during the crisis. These courses include: Coping with COVID, Transitioning to Online Courses, Changing Unhelpful Thoughts, Stress and Anxiety 101, Intro to Mindfulness, The ABZzzzzs of Sleep, Intro to Wellness, Relationships 101, Test Anxiety and Teaching Online Courses.To enroll in these workshops visit https://www.counseling.msstate.edu/casworkshop .
For students wanting to speak to a Student Counseling Services technician in order to find more about the resources available, virtual Let's Talk sessions are being offered on Tuesdays from 1-3 p.m. Let's Talk sessions can be accessed at https://msuscs.doxy.me/peeples .
Virtual Tea Talks are also being offered on the second Tuesday of every month for international students and their friends. To join a Tea Talk simply visit https://tinyurl.com/yypf42p8 and enter the passcode ISAB.
Everyone is going through this tough time together, and it is important for students to pay special attention to their mental health. Whether this means talking to a therapist, attending a virtual workshop or finding an anxiety-reducing hobby, prioritizing mental health in this transitional time is of vital importance.