The mental health of students in the time of pandemic is becoming one of the hot topics worldwide as the overall development, performance, career goals and focus of a student depends on his/her mental health. The mental health of students, not only in this time but also throughout their studies should be given priority as instabilities in their mental health, not only have a drastic impact on their personality and career but also community. A student not only is responsible for their career development but also is the future of the country and contributes to its overall growth.
COVID 19 pandemic has accompanied psychological issues with it. Though students due to their age range are less prone to be victims of COVID 19 but are at a verge of becoming victims of mental adverse effects. It has been identified that people are developing moderate-to-severe depressive and anxious symptoms. COVID 19 has made people change their routine and working conditions. It has shown us a new way of living. COVID 19 has a drastic impact on student mental health and their studies. Due to social distancing, universities and schools have started an online learning platform for the majority of students. This sudden change to online learning platform may leave students with declined motivation towards studies. According to the research on the impact of academic disruptions on students (Wickens, 2011), it can be concluded that students may feel an increased pressure due to individual learning, withdrawal of daily routines, and an increased rate of dropout may be observed.
COVID 19 led to a public health emergency which generates angst and a variety of psychological consequences. This may range from depression, stress and substance abuse to difficulty in sleeping and stress eating. Students may also find it difficult to cope up with the loneliness and isolation due to disconnections from partners and friends. Some students also have a home-like feeling in college .it may intensify the negativity and feelings like anxiety, frustration and betrayal. College students are distressed due to sudden disruption of the semester .students career has witnessed a downfall as many research projects and internships had to be cancelled and some had to leave in between due to worldwide lockdown. Students are also anxious about their results and the completion time of their graduation or post-graduation. Students may face a problem in managing their expenses in this time of pandemic as additional expenses add-ins and many ways of income are shut. Students have also lost on campus jobs and many pending fees like room and board fees still exist. This financial crisis and expenses lead to hardship and mental illness.
Students experience tremendous stress before and during the examinations .as many semester examinations and entrance examinations are postponed with no further date declaration, left the student anxious and confused. Students prepare for entrance examinations with great effort and also dedicate one or more than one year to prepare. The postponement has left the students who prepare for the entrance examination in a stressed condition as their pre-examination period would continue until they sit for the examination. The awaited dates have left students with uncertainty in their career and also parents adding up to their stress as they are also worried for their child future.
Schools and colleges have been a support system in terms of counselling as many provide counselling and resolve personal issues. With the closure of institutions, the service provided by the counsellor had to see a sudden disruption. Due to this sudden disruption, students are facing a major mental issue as the impact of lockdown and the anxiety caused by it adds to their afore issues with no guidance as to how to resolve them. This can be a major problem for economically weak students as it is difficult for them to avail such costly services. COVID 19 pandemic may deteriorate the prevailing concerns and can lead to increased cases in students as it is an exclusive combination of the public health crisis, economic recession and social distancing.
According to Maslow’s theory of Human Motivation, five levels describe the basic human needs for a balanced and satisfying life. The most basic level that is the first and lowest order need is physiological needs. Physiological needs are important for our survival like food, shelter; air etc. Second level is Safety that provides human a comforting environment over variation, unfamiliarity and turmoil. The third level is a consequence of human hunger for love and belonging, which connects people emotionally and physically. Fourth stands esteem, which shows a need for self-respect and high evaluation. Finally, the requisite of being satisfied by realizing and attaining one’s true potential emerges the highest order and the last level of Maslow theory that is self-actualisation.
COVID 19 have a deleterious effect on each of the level of the Maslow’s Hierarchy and each interference in the level causes damaging effects on not only students but all people’s mental health. The main concern at student level arises from the level demanding love and belonging as social distancing has caused a major deficiency of emotional and physical connections, leading to lack of affection and love from beloved .if one has a disruption in one of the levels of Maslow Theory, he cannot attain the higher levels and thus it leads to an unbalanced mental health and dissatisfaction.
Colleges and universities can play an important role in improving student mental health by building awareness about student’s mental health issues and needs. There are many ways to tackle the current situation. Educational institutes can establish a mental health cell with an eligible psychiatrist or psychologist and institutes should provide online weekly counselling to the students and mentioning the ways to handle their emotions and balance their mental health. Regular stress level can also be monitored using online tools as to prevent the student from entering the state of depression. Regular advice should be given to students to offer academic support. Alternative plans should be made and implemented for the research projects and internships that have been cancelled or paused as a result of lockdown.
Teachers can also play an important role in tackling the unbalanced student mental health.as the new academic year begins, the teacher can provide a safe and protective environment for students and can help against the trauma caused due to the pandemic. Parents and family support is a must during the pandemic to address mental health issues. Parents should communicate more with their children and should try to involve their child in meaningful conversations. They should initiate processes that would help their child to be happier and that make them stronger emotionally and mentally. The environment at the home should be friendly, encouraging and calm. Home environment plays a crucial role in the development and perception of a student towards his/her career and mental health.
The article highlights the various factors that contribute to the stress and mental illness of students in the pandemic. Still, there remains a need to learn more about the psychological impacts that students are facing and what all measures can be taken to control the situation and reduce the causes of disturbance in mental health of students.
- SHWETA MITTAL, OPF Trainee Intern