Lending a virtual hand

A new crisis emerged amid a surge of deaths, economic devastation and social disconnect caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Pierce College should seriously consider creating virtual support groups for students, faculty and staff to address the evolving cases of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. 

These mental health problems grew exponentially among college students. They were amplified by the closure of campuses which led to isolation, low grades and an increase in the dropout rate.

A study by the Student Experience in the Research University found that students are screening positive for depression and anxiety at higher rates than in previous years.

Help is necessary to address the different mental issues that stem from having contracted COVID, the loss of a loved one, unemployment and financial hardships, as well as the mental health decline due to distance learning.

Fortunately, mental health awareness campaigns on social media have destigmatized the topic among young people, which has led school districts to recognize the issue and seek ways to provide access to specialized counseling for students.

But Pierce should pay attention to what other community colleges are doing to support their students and get them to graduate  and/or transfer to a four-year college.

For example, Connecticut College has group counseling that involves five-to- eight students along with a counselor. They work to address areas of need, receive feedback and encouragement from their counselor, and learn skills that will help them achieve their mental health goals.

Also, San Diego City College provides support groups that primarily offer opportunities to focus on issues such as stress-reduction for larger sets of students as well as relationship building.

At Pierce, these support groups could be initiated by the psychology professors with the assistance of those in leadership, as well as outside counselors with experience working with students and mental health issues.

This  community could hold weekly virtual meetings through Zoom, where people could openly express their experiences in a supportive and uplifting environment.

Also, Pierce should look into allocating funds to target suicide prevention and to provide other resources, such as outside counseling to those students or faculty members dealing with suicidal ideation.

Most importantly, it is paramount that school administrators recognize that there is room for improvement and that we can do more to address the mental health repercussions exacerbated by the pandemic.