Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?

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Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?

   in the
   Covid Era
    Students are struggling.
    How are colleges trying to help?

Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
Togetherall proudly partners with the Chronicle of Higher Education to bring this special content
report to colleges and universities as an ongoing resource to develop effective solutions for
student mental health concerns during—and beyond—the era of COVID-19. We also applaud
the commitment, resources, innovative thinking and tireless efforts that higher-education
professionals have invested, and continue to invest, in order to support the mental wellness of
their students to nurture a thriving campus community.

Togetherall is an online peer-to-peer mental health community monitored by mental health
practitioners that empowers individuals to safely, anonymously seek and provide support 24/7. At
the start of 2021, students from nearly 200 colleges and universities used the Togetherall platform.
During the pandemic, Togetherall’s user base of college students has seen nearly a quarter-million
logins and more than 100,000 conversations.

I would like to acknowledge the mental health leaders at these institutions for taking a proactive
step to address the escalating need for mental health support during this crisis by incorporating
Togetherall as a resource for their students.

Togetherall has always believed the first rule of success in the student mental health arena is
community. This is ingrained in our culture and evident in our continual assessment of students’
user experience, level of engagement, changing mental health concerns and expressed need for
support. Creating a community demonstrates our commitment to working in full partnership with
institutions to integrate the Togetherall platform as a component of a comprehensive, campus-
specific mental health program.

The power of community is also driving the success of colleges and universities nationwide who
support students academically, physically and emotionally during the extraordinary challenges
of COVID-19. We are honored to contribute to the sharing of experiences and best practices
contained on the following pages, and we very much see these stories as a continuation of
the collaboration that will enable higher-education institutions to achieve thriving campus
communities for generations to come.


Matthew McEvoy
SVP and General Manager, North America
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era
                 Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?

    n recent years, the dramatic rise in students’ men-                           summer of 2020 found that 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds
    tal-health problems has been a pressing concern on                            had considered suicide within the previous 30 days.
    college campuses, and the nation’s frightening, inter-                           Uncertainty, upheaval, and strife have continued to
    twined crises — the pandemic, reckoning over racism,                          dominate the news. In this fraught, stressful time, college
    and political strife — have only increased students’                          leaders have been striving to develop creative approach-
distress and deepened educators’ worries.                                         es to promote campus well-being and deal with students’
   Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that advocates                          troubles — a task made even more difficult by the isola-
for mental-health education and awareness for young                               tion, physical distancing, and financial strains imposed by
adults, reported this summer that 89 percent of college                           Covid-19.
students are experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of                           This Chronicle collection includes articles and advice
Covid-19. One in four reported an increase in depression.                         pieces that examine the state of mental health among col-
Seventy-eight percent felt lonely or isolated. Fifty-six per-                     lege students, new approaches to college counseling and
cent report that their level of daily physical activity has de-                   psychological services, online mental-health resources,
creased or dramatically decreased. And a survey conduct-                          and innovative strategies that colleges are taking to ensure
ed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the                       the well-being of their students.

      4 College Students Have
        Been Stressed Out During
                                 12 Students of Color Are Not
                                    OK. Here’s How Colleges
                                                              24 How to Prepare for the
                                                                 Coming Flood of Student
          the Pandemic. Here’s                               Can Support Them.                                    Mental-Health Needs.
          How It’s Affected Their                            As the pandemic and the racial-                      A fall to-do list to help counseling
                                                             injustice crisis continue to take                    centers get ready for the surge of
          Mental Health.                                     a toll on Black people and other                     students who will seek help when
          The effects of Covid-19 are likely                 marginalized groups, colleges face                   classes resume amid Covid-19.
          to make an impact on the mental                    a newfound urgency to support the

                                                                                                        29 How
          health of many students for some                   mental health of students of color.
          time. Here’s a look at students’                                                                     Colleges Can Ease
                                                    18 Covid-19
          concerns and stressors.
                                                                Has Worsened                               Students’ Fear and Anxiety
      8 Shock, Fear, and Fatalism:
        As Coronavirus Prompts
                                                       the College Mental-Health
                                                             Crisis. Can Resilience
                                                                                                                  in Quarantine
                                                                                                                  Care packages, safe workouts,
                                                                                                                  support groups, and even limited
          Colleges to Close, Students                        Training Fix it?                                     outdoor time are all ways colleges
                                                                                                                  are trying to support students in
                                                             Grit and resilience have become
          Grapple With Uncertainty                           especially salient ideas as colleges
                                                                                                                  on-campus isolation housing.

                                                                                                        34 Colleges
          As campuses closed in the spring                   try to respond to students’ mental-
          of 2020, students struggled with                   health troubles, but is that the right
          stress and anxiety, and campus                     message to send to students —                          Are Canceling
          leaders found themselves                           to push through hardship, bounce              Spring Break. In Its Place:
          struggling to help in uncharted                    back from failure, and come out
          territory.                                         stronger? Or should it be about                      ‘Wellness Days.’
                                                             empathy, compassion, and getting                     A growing number of colleges
                                                             through this time in one piece?                      have announced plans to cancel
                                                                                                                  class on a handful of days
                                                                                                                  sprinkled throughout the spring
                                                                                                                  semester. They’re a good idea in
                                                                                                                  concept, but success depends
                                                                                                                  on how they are designed and
                                                                                                                  rolled out.

                                                   Cover image: Chronicle Illustration, Getty Images

            ©2021 by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, forwarded
            (even for internal use), hosted online, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or
            other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations
            embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For bulk orders or special requests,
            contact The Chronicle at

                                         For questions or comments about the collection, email
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
College Students Have Been
     Stressed Out During the
    Pandemic. Here’s How It’s
  Affected Their Mental Health.
                                                            By AUDREY WILLIAMS JUNE


m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a             4         t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
                 eing a college student often comes                                  vesting in programs and services to support
                 with a set of struggles, like homesick-                             student mental health,” Sarah Ketchen
                 ness, poor time-management skills,                                  Lipson, an assistant professor of health law,
                 and impostor syndrome. Add a global                                 policy, and management at Boston Univer-
                 pandemic to the mix, which has                                      sity, said in a news release about the survey.
         disrupted students’ education, wiped out                                    “Our prior research has shown that men-
         their finances, and upended their social-                                   tal-health problems such as depression are
         support systems, and the stage is set for                                   associated with a twofold increase in the
         them to experience a wide range of psycho-                                  likelihood of dropping out of college.”
         logical repercussions.                                                         The survey showed that administrators
            New research from the Healthy Minds                                      and professors received high marks for the
         Network and the American College Health                                     support they provided during the pandemic.
         Association shows that depression is one                                    College administrators were deemed sup-
         of those repercussions, with the rate of de-                                portive or very supportive by 69 percent of
         pression among students rising since the                                    students, with 78 percent saying the same
         start of the pandemic. The survey of more                                   about their professors.
         than 18,000 college students on 14 cam-                                        The effects of Covid-19 are likely to
         puses, conducted between late March and                                     make an impact on the mental health of
         May, also provides a look at some of the fac-                               many students for some time. Here’s a look
         tors contributing to the coronavirus-related                                at students’ concerns and stressors.
         stress college students are dealing with.
                                                                                     Audrey Williams June is the news-data
            One of the lead researchers of the annual
                                                                                     manager at The Chronicle. She explores and
         national Healthy Minds study said the sur-
                                                                                     analyzes data sets, databases, and records to
         vey’s findings can be of use to colleges as they
                                                                                     uncover higher-education trends, insights,
         prepare to welcome students back to campus
                                                                                     and stories.
         — in one form or another — this fall.
            “There is a strong economic case for in-                                 Originally published July 13, 2020

          Students identified the following worries in response to this question: Over the past two weeks, on
          average, how much have you been concerned with the following?

         Chart: Audrey Williams June
         Source: The Healthy Minds Network/American College Health Association:, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Student Well-Being” Created with Datawrapper.

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Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
                   Two-thirds of students said their financial situation had become more stressful because of the pandemic.

                   Chart: Audrey Williams June
                   Source: The Healthy Minds Network/American College Health Association:, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Student Well-Being”
                   Created with Datawrapper.

                   HARD TO GET HELP
                   Most of the students who sought mental-health services said the pandemic made it difficult for them to do so.
                   How has your access to mental-health care been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?

                   Note: Over all, 58.2 percent of students indicated that they have not tried to       Chart: Audrey Williams June
                   access mental-health care. Data represents the 41.8 percent of students              Source: The Healthy Minds Network/American College Health
                   who did attempt to seek care.                                                        Association:, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Student Well-Being”
                                                                                                        Created with Datawrapper.

                   The share of students with depression was up this spring, along with the percentage of students whose
                   mental health affected their academic performance.

                   Chart: Audrey Williams June
                   Source: The Healthy Minds Network/American College Health Association:, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Student Well-Being” Created with Datawrapper.

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Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
          Students overwhelmingly reported that their college’s administration and their professors were supportive as
          the pandemic unfolded.

         Chart: Audrey Williams June
         Source: The Healthy Minds Network/American College Health Association:, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Student Well-Being” Created with Datawrapper.

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Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
Shock, Fear, and Fatalism:
                 As Coronavirus Prompts
                Colleges to Close, Students
                Grapple With Uncertainty
                                                            By ALEXANDER C. KAFKA

                                                                                                      JASON ANDREW FOR THE CHRONICLE

Alana Hendy, a junior at Georgetown U., is now at her family’s home, in Bowie, Md. Speaking of her classmates, she says, “a lot of
people are anxious because not everyone can afford a flight home or a flight to campus to pick up their stuff.”

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a             8          t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
                 ffectively booted off campus in an ef-       and now that’s sort of thrown into flux.”
                 fort to contain coronavirus contagion,       Her grandparents had planned to go to D.C.
                 hundreds of thousands of college stu-        for her graduation.
                 dents are reacting with shock, uncer-            Angle knows, however, that “there are
                 tainty, sadness, and, in some cases,         a whole lot of people suffering a lot more
         devil-may-care fatalism. Even as they hur-           from this. I have a safe home to go to, par-
         riedly arrange logistical details, the stress        ents who are happy to take me in. It’s most-
         of an uncertain future is taking a toll.             ly just the stress of uncertainty.”
             “A lot of people are anxious because not
         everyone can afford a flight home or a flight
         to campus to pick up their stuff,” says Al-          Even as students
         ana Hendy, a Georgetown University ju-
         nior studying international relations. She is
                                                              hurriedly arrange logistical
         among the rapidly growing number of stu-             details, the stress of
         dents nationwide who were urged not to re-
         turn to campus after spring break as cours-          an uncertain future is
         es shift online.
             Hendy too is anxious, she says, but she is
                                                              taking a toll.
         more confused as she sorts through uncer-
         tainties concerning her living and academic          ‘UTTER PANDEMONIUM’
         arrangements. A low-income student from
         Bowie, Md., she says it would be better if she           Not everyone is adjusting so philosophi-
         stayed on campus because her father suffers          cally. Students are “definitely freaking out,”
         from chronic obstructive pulmonary dis-              says a junior at Harvard, who asked not to
         ease and diabetes, and is particularly vul-          be named for fear of reprisal by the univer-
         nerable to Covid-19, the illness caused by           sity. The week before spring break is aca-
         the new coronavirus. She filed a form asking         demically hectic, so students were turning
         to be allowed to remain in her dorm but may          in problem sets and papers, then head-
         not get an answer until next week.                   ing home, when they learned their classes
             Among the questions on her mind: What            would move online and they were to leave
         will happen to her work-study job, in the            campus. In some cases they zipped right
         dean’s office at the School of Foreign Ser-          back to Cambridge, Mass., to try to pack up,
         vice? How will her responsibilities as a             store, or ship their belongings.
         teaching assistant in a geography class                  “It’s utter pandemonium on campus
         change with the new online format?                   right now,” the student says. “Everybody is
             But counterbalancing the uncertainties,          partying all day or incredibly stressed out
         she says, is support offered by the universi-        about homework, or both. People really
         ty. It is helping defray low-income students’        seem upset and confused.”
         costs for shipping medication, books, and                And they’re not exactly following the
         other necessities, for example. And the cam-         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
         pus’s food pantry is open and stocked twice          protocol, the student says, with parties out-
         a week, which, she says, “we’re grateful for.”       doors and in, “scorpion” punch bowls, and
             So she’ll cope with the situation, week by       games of beer pong, “one of the least sterile
         week. And after law school or a doctorate in         things to be doing right now.”
         history, when she’s a professor, she imag-               Similar seize-the-day mayhem broke out
         ines she’ll look back at the Covid-19 pan-           at the University of Dayton on Tuesday, when
         demic as a case study.                               it said its classes would be moved online.
             For Rachel P. Angle, a Georgetown senior         What was initially reported to be a protest
         from Middletown, Conn., studying govern-             against the university’s anti-virus measures
         ment and living off campus, the academic             was in fact, the administration says, “one
         disruption should not be too drastic. But,           last large gathering before spring break, and
         she says, “It’s my senior spring. There were         the size and behavior of the crowd required
         so many things I was planning on doing,              police to take action.” More than 1,000 stu-

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion               9                            m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
Mental Well-Being in the Covid Era - Students are struggling. How are colleges trying to help?
dents gathered in the streets, according to lo-         friends, then they should have pizza night
                   cal news coverage, and when some students               together online.
                   stood on cars and the situation grew rowdi-                Counselors, in person or in teletherapy
                   er, the police launched “pepper balls,” which           sessions, need to push beyond vague rec-
                   contain irritants, into the crowd.                      ommendations to help students “operation-
                       “Students are often accused of living in            alize” good habits and a positive outlook.
                   a ‘campus bubble,’ immune to wider social               Don’t just advise them to get exercise, says
                   concerns, so it doesn’t seem surprising that            Bartley. Talk through with them exactly
                   on some campuses there would be outbreaks               what walking, jogging, or bike route they’re
                   of partying,” says Mikita Brottman, an author           going to take, for how long and how of-
                   and psychoanalyst who teaches literature at             ten. It’s a disconcerting time, she says, but
                   the Maryland Institute College of Arts.                 “there’s a difference between healthy con-
                       “It’s hard for some                                                       cern and fear. … Let’s
                   students to take the vi-                                                      make smart choices,
                   rus seriously. They’re                   “There’s a difference                but let’s not be afraid.”
                   often cynical about                                                               Gregory Roper, a
                   ‘media panics,’ and
                                                              between healthy                    freshman at Rensselaer
                   even if they do follow                   concern and fear. …                  Polytechnic Institute,
                   the mainstream me-                                                            is more afraid for his
                   dia,” she says, they feel                  Let’s make smart                   grandparents than he
                   that “this is a virus that                                                    is for himself. He was
                   targets ‘old people.’”
                                                            choices, but let’s not               already visiting them,
                       “Beyond that,” Brott-                      be afraid.”                    in Fairfield, Conn.,
                   man says, “I think the                                                        during spring break,
                   celebrating reflects both a feeling of disas-           and “it looks like I might be doing that for
                   ter-inspired togetherness — and together-               a while longer,” he says, now that the New
                   ness is part of the spring-break tradition              York college has announced that classes
                   anyway — along with a sense of social con-              are going online and students must move
                   straint collapsing.” The partyers “are like             off campus. His parents are in Santa Clara
                   the inhabitants of Prospero’s palace” in Ed-            County, Calif., which has a high concentra-
                   gar Allan Poe’s story “The Masque of the                tion of coronavirus cases. They’re consider-
                   Red Death,” she says, “getting drunk while              ing going somewhere safer, so he won’t be
                   plague ravages the nation.”                             joining them at home for now.
                                                                              A computer-science student, Roper says
                   ‘STAY IN THE ROUTINE’                                   a lot of his coursework was already online,
                                                                           but the lab sessions in his biology class “are
                       The stress of uncertainty can be very               still completely up in the air.”
                   unnerving, says Alise G. Bartley, a clinical               Reactions to the crisis among his friends,
                   assistant professor in the department of                Roper says, “are very much a mix.” Some
                   counseling and director of the communi-                 think fears are “sort of overinflated.” Oth-
                   ty-counseling center at Florida Gulf Coast              ers, particularly “friends with weak im-
                   University. The most constructive way                   mune systems, are very scared.”
                   to approach it is “to focus on what we do                  In addition to fear, students are ag-
                   know” staves off illness: wash hands, avoid             grieved over losing life experiences like
                   high-density groups, get sufficient sleep,              spring of senior year, says Nicole Dan-
                   eat well, and exercise.                                 forth, director of outpatient programs for
                       As students are yanked from their cam-              child and adolescent psychiatry at New-
                   pus settings, it will be crucial for them to            ton-Wellesley Hospital, in Massachusetts.
                   retain structure in their academic and per-             Acknowledge that grief, Danforth recom-
                   sonal lives, she says. They need to “stay in            mends, but challenge yourself “to limit how
                   the routine and feel like there’s a purpose             much you let your anxious brain take over.”
                   so that they don’t fall into depression.”                  The bachelor-of-fine-arts students of Jil-
                   If they’re used to Friday pizza night with              lian Harris, an associate professor of dance

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a              10             t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
at Temple University, felt “a strong sense            Text Line by texting ‘BRAVE’ to 741-741.”
          of disappointment” that showcase perfor-
          mances of their senior choreography proj-             ‘UNCHARTED TERRITORY’
          ects couldn’t proceed when Temple an-
          nounced courses would move online start-                 Active Minds chapter leaders across the
          ing next week.                                        country, like Stephanie Cahill, a senior
             But “everyone is trying to be creative,”           studying psychology at Arizona State Uni-
          producing instead online rehearsal-progress           versity, have a front-row view of their peers’
          portfolios with written analyses, Harris says.        anxieties. Even before the university an-
          On stage and in life, she says, “fortunately          nounced, late Wednesday, that it was mov-
          dancers are very good improvisers.”                   ing classes online, Cahill says, a lot of stu-
             Technology will be a defining aspect               dents were “nervous and scared” and just
          of the mental-health challenge, Danforth              not showing up.
          says. A life behind blue screens can already             Active Minds meetings on campus saw a
          be isolating, she says, and we’re in danger           surge in attendance — to groups of rough-
          of succumbing further to that. But telether-          ly 25 — and visits by administrators like
          apy options are more sophisticated and                ASU’s associate vice president for counsel-
          plentiful than ever, and if Covid-19 leads            ing and health services helped ease stu-
          to greater use and acceptance of them, she            dents’ worries, Cahill says.
          says, that is “a win for everybody.”                     Information is key, but colleges “have to
             Laura Horne experienced the trauma of              acknowledge that we’re in uncharted terri-
          displacement herself as an undergraduate              tory here,” says Kevin Krueger, president of
          at Loyola University New Orleans after Hur-           Naspa, an association of student-affairs ad-
          ricane Katrina struck, in 2005. Her family            ministrators. “We don’t have a playbook.”
          lived in the city’s suburbs, and she couldn’t            But they’re writing one quickly as they
          go home. She transferred to Louisiana                 go along. Seventeen hundred participants
          Tech University for a quarter, and though             signed up for a Naspa webinar on Wednes-
          she tried her best to keep up with friends            day, and they’re sorting through best practic-
          through Facebook, email, and phone calls,             es on housing and food for low-income stu-
          “a lot of students relocated to other schools         dents, provision of mental-health services,
          and never came back,” she says.                       and, in the longer term, engaging students in
             “I had to somewhat mourn and be OK                 the online environment — not just academ-
          with letting that go for a time,” she says,           ically, but in critical services like academic
          “and engage with the new environment.”                advising, orientation, career services and job
          Many students this spring might also “go              fairs, and campus culture and Greek life.
          through a period of mourning, and that’s                 As a new normal slowly forms for stu-
          normal,” says Horne, now the chief pro-               dents, Krueger says, it’s also important to
          gram officer for Active Minds, which sup-             recognize that fatigue is setting in among
          ports mental-health awareness and educa-              administrators, staff, and faculty: “There’s
          tion for students.                                    a toll that comes from being in a crisis
             She offers coping tips for students on             mode in these situations.”
          the Active Minds website, but “if what you
                                                                Alexander C. Kafka is a Chronicle senior
          are feeling seems like more than just a bad
          day,” she writes, “seek help from a profes-
          sional. … If you need it, contact the Crisis          Originally published March 12, 2020

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion                11                            m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
Students of
                                                            Color Are Not
                                                            OK. Here’s How
                                                            Colleges Can
                                                            Support Them.
                                                            By SARAH BROWN

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a 
                                                                                                  KLAUS VEDFELT/GETTY IMAGES
                                                                   12        t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
                   rop-in counseling for Black stu-                In the throes of dual national crises,
                   dents. Therapy groups on coping              students of color will need quick access
                   with racism. Programs for white              to mental-health-care options that reflect
                   students on how to be anti-racist.           their experiences, recreate their support
                      As the pandemic and the ra-               systems remotely, and acknowledge the
         cial-injustice crisis continue to take a toll          physical and emotional tolls the past few
         on Black people and other marginalized                 months have taken.
         groups, colleges face a newfound urgency
         to support the mental health of students of            CULTURALLY COMPETENT COUNSELING
            Just about every survey conducted since                As Alexa Sass, a junior at the University
         the beginning of March indicates that stu-             of California at Los Angeles, was finishing
         dent distress is only going to get worse               up the spring term, George Floyd was killed
         this fall. Those mental-health concerns                in police custody in Minneapolis, and pro-
         will be exacerbated for Black and Hispan-              tests against racial injustice exploded na-
         ic students, whose populations are dispro-             tionwide. Processing the news was over-
         portionately harmed by Covid-19 and by                 whelming and exhausting for Sass, who
         the police violence gripping the nation’s              identifies as Black and Filipino.
         consciousness. Asian American students,                   She tried to get through her final exams
         meanwhile, are dealing with racial slurs               as best she could. She turned to books on
         and jokes stemming from the pandemic’s                 spirituality. She leaned on her communi-
         origins in China.                                      ties within UCLA and back home in the Bay
            What’s more, students of color often                Area — virtually, of course. She has tried
         don’t get the help they need. About 45 per-            out some of the university’s online men-
         cent of white students with mental-health              tal-health resources, but they’re not what
         challenges seek treatment, according to a              she really needs.
         2018 study, but only a third of Latinx stu-               Without much in-person interaction,
         dents do so. For Black and Asian students,             she’s struggling emotionally. “The way that
         the proportion is even lower — about 25                I process my mental health is through sup-
         and 22 percent, respectively.                          port systems,” said Sass, a leader in the
            And this fall, they will return to colleges         campus chapter of Active Minds, a national
         that look and feel very different. Putting             mental-health advocacy group.
         distressed students on a two-week waiting                 The pandemic and the racial-injustice
         list for therapy sessions won’t cut it, men-           crisis have caused fear, anxiety, depres-
         tal-health experts say.                                sion, and hopelessness in Black students,

         Among students who have a mental-health problem, Black, Latinx, Arab, and Asian students are far less
         likely than white students to have sought treatment in the past year.

         Source: Lipson et al. Created with Datawrapper.

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion                13                              m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
                   Students of color who meet the criteria for having a mental-health problem are more likely than white
                   students to believe that the general public stigmatizes mental illness.

                   Source: Lipson et al. Created with Datawrapper.

                   said Kayla Johnson, a staff psychologist at              tal-health experts say.
                   Prairie View A&M University, a historical-                  Before Stacia Alexander arrived at Paul
                   ly Black institution in Texas. But those stu-            Quinn College, in 2018, the historically black
                   dents don’t often use mental-health ser-                 institution in Texas had a mental-health
                   vices, because of stigma.                                provider on campus for only a few hours
                      For some Black people, Johnson said,                  each week, from the nearby University of
                   going to a therapist means that some-                    Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
                   thing must be wrong with you, or that you                   Once Alexander took over as the college’s
                   don’t have enough faith in God. There’s                  first mental-health-clinic coordinator, she
                   also pressure to keep problems to yourself,              tried a direct form of outreach: She hand-
                   she said: “There’s kind of a level of secrecy            ed out her cellphone number to students at
                   about things that happen.”                               orientation and told them to text her when
                      Not only are there cultural barriers                  they were having a bad day. One of the big-
                   that discourage many students of color                   gest barriers to accessing care, she said, is
                   from talking openly about mental health,                 that students don’t know where to go.
                   but they also encounter a staff of cam-                     It worked. And many students told her
                   pus therapists many of whom don’t look                   how excited they were to have a Black ther-
                   like them, said Annelle Primm, a senior                  apist to talk with.
                   medical adviser at the Steve Fund, a men-                   But students were texting her all night,
                   tal-health-support organization for young                she said. So, earlier this year, Paul Quinn
                   people of color. Some students, she said,                joined with TimelyMD, a teletherapy com-
                   make the calculation that “it’s best not to              pany, to ease the burden. Now students can
                   seek help if they can’t seek help from some-             reach a therapist 24/7 through the Time-
                   one with whom they feel comfortable shar-                lyMD app, which offers access to providers
                   ing such personal feelings.”                             from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.
                      At predominantly white institutions,
                   counseling-staff members often don’t know                NO MORE TWO-WEEK WAITS
                   how to talk with Black students, Johnson
                   added. Sometimes, she said, students end                    Accessibility, experts say, should be an-
                   up taking time out of their therapy sessions             other top priority for colleges trying to
                   to explain social, economic, and cultural                better reach students of color with men-
                   problems affecting Black families to their               tal-health resources.
                   white therapists.                                           Dozens of colleges, including George
                      “Of course, when that happens, you don’t              Washington University, Texas A&M Univer-
                   want to come back,” she said.                            sity, and Mississippi State University, are
                      This fall, making sure students of col-               offering quick drop-in consultations with
                   or can connect with culturally competent                 therapists meant for students of color. The
                   mental-health providers will be key, men-                program, known as “Let’s Talk,” typically

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a               14             t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
is set up at different locations across cam-         make sure students know where they can
          pus during a given week, often in student            find help.
          unions or cultural centers. For now, the
          drop-in sessions are happening virtually.            ANTI-RACISM AS WELLNESS
              Brown University’s counseling center
          uses a flexible-care model, in which most               At Loyola University Maryland, Jason
          students are served through 25-30-min-               Parcover, director of the counseling center,
          ute sessions that they can schedule just             is also trying to offer a menu of flexible, ac-
          once, or as often as they want. Continuing           cessible resources for students. But beyond
          50-minute counseling appointments re-                that, he’s creating spaces for white students
          flect a Western-centric care approach that           to learn how to tackle racial injustice. “Our
          doesn’t appeal to many students of color,            marginalized students are telling us that
          said Will Meek, director of counseling and           they want to see action,” he said.
          psychological services.                                 The conversations, as Loyola calls them,
              Since March, he said, no Brown student           will help students understand how to be
          has waited more than a day to see one of             anti-racist, to “make a commitment to tak-
          the university’s campus therapists, a staff          ing specific actions, and to hold each oth-
          that Meek describes as culturally diverse.           er accountable for following through with
          The university uses a third party to further         those actions,” he said. The programs fit
          expand access.                                       squarely into Loyola’s values as a Jesuit in-
              When Brown students call the counsel-            stitution, he said, and into the counseling
          ing center with an ur-                                                     center’s mission.
          gent request, a clini-                                                         “Investing in an-
          cian from ProtoCall,           “By definition, anti-                       ti-racism efforts in-
          a 24/7 crisis line that                                                    cludes really acknowl-
          works with colleges,             racism work is                            edging and under-
          will pick up the phone.
          The clinician will talk
                                          mental-health and                          standing deeply that
                                                                                     we are all in this to-
          with the student and             wellness work.”                           gether, and that our
          report back to Brown’s                                                     health in all forms,
          counseling staff. Often                                                    including our mental
          students just want to talk with someone for          health, is connected to how other mem-
          a few minutes without even making an ap-             bers of our community are faring,” Parcov-
          pointment, Meek said.                                er said. “By definition, anti-racism work is
              To prepare for the fall, he has also been        mental-health and wellness work.”
          rethinking outreach to students of color.               Counseling centers should “name the
          For instance, instead of waiting for stu-            issues,” he said. In public communica-
          dents to contact the counseling center, he’s         tions, campus mental-health staff members
          hoping to have them opt in to a program in           should be specific about what’s going on
          which a staff therapist can contact them di-         in the world and talk about the impact of
          rectly and connect one-on-one.                       trauma on mental health.
              At UCLA, which has 45,000 students,                 Educating white students about being
          there can be long wait times for therapy,            effective allies should be a core part of any
          said Sass, the junior there. But there are           campus strategy to support the well-being
          other places that students of color can turn         of students of color, said Erin McClintock,
          for mental-health support, she said. There’s         a former campus therapist and director of
          the RISE Center, which stands for “resil-            wellness at Clark University who’s now se-
          ience in your student experience.” There’s           nior director of impact and education at
          an academic-support program for Black                EverFi, a company that provides students
          students, where Sass serves as a trained             with online training in alcohol, sexual mis-
          peer counselor who helps other students              conduct, and mental health.
          with both academics and life stressors.                 Socially conscious students are going to
              UCLA leaders, she said, just need to             return to campuses this fall wanting to act

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion               15                             m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
against racial injustice, she said — but if             and how to maintain self-care as an activ-
                   they want to become good allies, they can’t             ist. California State University at Fullerton
                   psychologically burden Black students                   conducted a study this spring and found
                   while they take on that work. “People of                that students of color used the You at Col-
                   color don’t need to be the ones who are val-            lege platform at a higher rate than white
                   idating their white peers,” she said.                   students did, Demers said.
                                                                              Students can use You at College on their
                   AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION                                  phones, and they can do so privately, which
                                                                           is especially important for students who
                      Creating a culture of well-being is not              are staying with their families and wouldn’t
                   just about what the counseling center is                feel comfortable speaking with a therapist
                   doing, McClintock said. Colleges can stop               in that environment, he said.
                   personal crises before they happen by help-                With prevention in mind, California
                   ing students who are experiencing “sub-                 State University at Sacramento added men-
                   clinical” issues — distress that’s not yet a            tal-health sessions for parents to its virtual
                   mental-health disorder but affects their                new-student orientation this summer — in-
                   ability to function.                                                          cluding in Spanish and
                   That means investing                                                          Gujarati, a language
                   in food pantries and
                   emergency financial
                                                                Like many fields,                spoken in India.
                                                                                                    More than 70 per-
                   aid so that low-income                   therapy and wellness                 cent of Sacramento
                   students, who are dis-                                                        State students are non-
                   proportionately people                   work “were originally                white, and many come
                   of color, don’t have to
                   stress as much about
                                                              developed through                  from cultural back-
                                                                                                 grounds where mental
                   basic needs, she said.                     a white lens and a                 health isn’t discussed
                      Some colleges are                                                          openly, said Lara
                   turning to online plat-                     white framework.                  Falkenstein, a campus
                   forms to try to reach
                   students before they
                                                             It’s our challenge to               health educator who
                                                                                                 advises the university’s
                   spiral into anxiety or                   shift that — to really               Active Minds chapter.
                   depression. More than                                                         As students learn on-
                   120 institutions are of-                    take into account                 line this fall and con-
                   fering You at College,
                   which compiles men-
                                                            the experiences and                  tinue to spend much
                                                                                                 of their time at home,
                   tal-health and well-be-                    needs of students                  she said, the universi-
                   ing resources tailored                                                        ty wants to make sure
                   to campuses.                                   from different                 that families can have
                      Nathaan Demers,
                   a former campus psy-
                                                                 communities.”                   conversations about
                                                                                                 emotional well-being
                   chologist who’s now                                                           and look out for poten-
                   vice president and di-                                                        tial signs of distress.
                   rector of clinical programs at Grit Digital                Sacramento State is also beginning a
                   Health, which worked with Colorado State                two-year, grant-funded research project on
                   University to develop You at College three              the mental health of students of color that
                   years ago, said students’ use of the platform           will examine what they need and where
                   increased by 153 percent in the first five              the university needs to improve, said Reva
                   weeks of the pandemic compared with the                 Wittenberg, associate director for campus
                   previous three months.                                  wellness.
                      The platform recently added resources                   Like many fields, therapy and wellness
                   that address the racial-injustice crisis, on            work “were originally developed through
                   how to make one’s voice heard effectively               a white lens and a white framework,” she

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a              16             t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
said. “It’s our challenge to shift that — to        schools need to step up and say, ‘Hey, we’re
          really take into account the experiences            here. We see what’s happening. We support
          and needs of students from different                you,’” she said.
          communities.”                                          Meera Varma, a UCLA junior and a lead-
             At Prairie View A&M, more of the coun-           er in the campus Active Minds chapter, em-
          seling center’s therapy groups, workshops,          phasized that colleges should offer support
          and other outreach programs will focus              and academic flexibility in recognition of
          on coping with racial injustice and giving          the toll that activism can take on mental
          students a space to process what they’ve            health, particularly for Black students.
          been going through. “For Black America,”               “This fire, this passion from our students
          said Kayla Johnson, the staff psychologist,         isn’t going to die down anytime soon,” she
          “we heal and cope by getting together.” She         said. This fall, “it’s really important to un-
          is heartened to see more Black students             derstand that school education might not
          talking openly about mental health on so-           be students’ first priority.”
          cial media and other platforms.
                                                              Sarah Brown is a senior reporter who covers
             Black students’ well-being this fall, she
                                                              campus culture, including Title IX, race
          added, will also depend on their institu-
                                                              and diversity, and student mental health for
          tions’ taking a strong stance against racial
                                                              The Chronicle.
          injustice. Otherwise, how will students
          be able to feel safe on campus? “I think            Originally published July 6, 2020

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion              17                             m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
Covid-19 Has Worsened the
    Student Mental-Health Crisis.
    Can Resilience Training Fix It?
                                                            By SARAH BROWN and ALEXANDER C. KAFKA

                                                                                                      JACQUELINE RICCIARDI FOR THE CHRONICLE
Ai Bui, an architecture student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Thankfully, and apparently, I seem to be
pretty indestructible.”

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a                     18         t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
                 rhere were six years of anorexia, two                                   In recent years, “resilience” and its com-
                 of bulimia, and 10 of depression and                                 panion concept, “grit,” have become buzz-
                 anxiety, plus a recent stress disorder                               words in higher education. Colleges have
                 from “repeated sexual assaults by                                    introduced wellness programs, campus
                 a trusted authority.” Ai Bui, a third-                               campaigns, even full-blown courses that
         year architecture student at the Massachu-                                   incorporate meditation, yoga, reflective
         setts Institute of Technology, knows what                                    writing and sketching, and stress-manage-
         trauma is.                                                                   ment techniques like deep breathing.
            “I’ve fought myself to nothing but vomit,                                    Gritty and resilient students, the think-
         blood, skin, and bones, and all these years                                  ing goes, know how to persevere through
         I’ve just wanted to vanish and become air,”                                  life’s inevitable stressors. They know how
         Bui told an audience at Lesley University in                                 to halt the negative thoughts that can spiral
         October during a performance series called                                   into a crisis. They’re more likely to stay on
         This Is My Brave. “But thankfully, and appar-                                track, academically and psychologically.
         ently, I seem to be pretty indestructible.”                                     Grit and resilience have become espe-
            The pandemic is putting that notion to                                    cially salient ideas as colleges try to re-
         the test.                                                                    spond to students’ mental-health troubles,
            With no in-person support system to                                       which were already skyrocketing before
         fall back on, Bui grieved the death of a fam-                                the pandemic. In some ways, the Covid-19
         ily friend and faced a looming deadline                                      era seems like exactly the right time to ed-
         for a big class project. It “really took a toll                              ucate students on how to manage the in-
         on me,” Bui said in a late-April phone inter-                                tense sadness, isolation, and anxiety they
         view. One night, “I felt so stressed out                                     are feeling.
         that I broke down for a solid hour sobbing                                      But during the horrible natural experi-
         really badly.”                                                               ment called coronavirus, is that the right
            But maybe teary is what tough looks like                                  message to send to students — to push
         in this era. As Bui’s friend texted: “You don’t                              through hardship, bounce back from fail-
         think it takes resilience to go through this?                                ure, and come out stronger? Or should it be
         And then to wake up tomorrow? And the                                        about empathy, compassion, and getting
         next day and the next day and the next day?”                                 through this time in one piece?

         In an April 2020 survey of 2,086 college students, the vast majority indicated that Covid-19 had negatively
         affected their mental health.

         Source: Active Minds Spring 2020 Student Survey. Created with Datawrapper.

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion                                     19                             m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
GRIEVING LOST EXPERIENCES                                                    nary moments,” the everyday contact with
                                                                                                classmates and professors — “the physical
                      In a blizzard of bad news, this genera-                                   aspect of being in a classroom” and “just
                   tion of ostensibly delicate students is al-                                  passing them in the hallway.”
                   ready proving pretty strong, mental-health                                      She tries to structure her day, go for
                   experts say. In the past two months, some                                    walks, limit screen time, and stay in
                   have lost family members, their only safe                                    e-touch with friends. But the bottom line,
                   living environment, or the jobs that paid                                    she said, is that she’s “heartbroken.”
                   their bills.                                                                    “I joke with my family that I feel fine in
                      According to an April survey by Active                                    the morning, but who knows what the af-
                   Minds, a national mental-health advoca-                                      ternoon will bring, if I’m going to break
                   cy group, 80 percent of college students say                                 down in tears or whatever.”
                   the Covid-19 crisis has negatively affected                                     Campus leaders are worried about the
                   their mental health. One-fifth say it has sig-                               pandemic’s psychological fallout. In a
                   nificantly worsened.                                                         survey by the American Council on Educa-
                      For many students, uncertainty is at the                                  tion, 41 percent of college presidents said
                   root of their pandemic-related distress.                                     the mental health of students was among
                   “The thing I hear from students is a lot of                                  their most pressing pandemic-related
                   the ‘but’ sentences,” said Kelly Crace, asso-                                concerns. Thirty-five percent of the presi-
                   ciate vice president for health and wellness                                 dents said they plan to invest more in men-
                   at the College of William & Mary. Sentenc-                                   tal-health services.
                   es like: “I can finish the semester remotely.                                   But they won’t be able to rely solely on
                   But if this goes into July, I can’t handle it.”                              campus counseling centers, many of which
                      They’ve lost their usual coping mecha-                                    are already overwhelmed by increasing de-
                   nisms. Students can text or call their college                               mand. Meanwhile, financial uncertainty
                   friends, but it’s not the same as getting to-                                could make it difficult to hire more coun-
                   gether for a movie night. Classes can feel like                              selors and therapists.
                   an uninspiring imitation of the real thing.                                     What’s more, teletherapy isn’t always an
                      “It’s the most social time of your life,”                                 option for students now scattered across
                   said Michael R. Lovell, president of Mar-                                    the country; licensing laws often don’t al-
                   quette University. “You’re constantly sur-                                   low treatment across state lines. An Amer-
                   rounded by your friends.” To have that                                       ican College Health Association survey in
                   taken away so suddenly is a shock. For stu-                                  early April found that less than half of the
                   dents, as for faculty members, there’s no                                    356 colleges that responded were able to
                   substitute for being in a room bouncing                                      virtually treat students regardless of where
                   ideas off one another. “You can’t quite get                                  they were living.
                   the same energy in a remote-learning envi-                                      So colleges will have to help students
                   ronment.”                                                                    help themselves through this new wave of
                      Emma Brauer, a senior at Marquette ma-                                    psychological distress — and they’ll have
                   joring in anthropology, misses “those ordi-                                  to be careful about the messages they send,

                   Covid-19 forced most students into distance learning, upending their lifestyles and routines. As a result,
                   an April survey found, some are struggling with these aspects of self-care:

                   Source: Active Minds Spring 2020 Student Survey. Created with Datawrapper.

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a                                  20              t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
mental-health experts say. They’ll need                insecurity, career prospects battered by the
          a nuanced approach, offering resilience                economic plunge. But while post-traumat-
          strategies while recognizing students’ grief.          ic stress is one possible outcome, she said,
                                                                 “there’s also the possibility of post-trau-
          GRIT VS. GRIEVING                                      matic growth.”
                                                                    “This is not going to be a footnote. This is
              For Ally Beard, a junior at Harvard Uni-           going to be a chapter in the history books,”
          versity, “the grief came first, and it wasn’t          she said. And by finding purpose in one’s
          until we had finished grieving that we were            actions and meaning in one’s relationships,
          able to be resilient.” Being sent home “was            “one day you’ll be telling your children and
          just so heartbreaking. Within 24 hours,                grandchildren about how you lived through
          the world exploded,” she remembered in                 history, and I want you to be proud of how
          a phone call from Nantucket, where she is              you reacted to it, that you demonstrated
          staying with her boyfriend and his family.             character.”
              Managing her depression and anxiety
          disorder for years has proved to be helpful            THE RESILIENCE RUBRIC
          training, she said. “I’m better at flexibility
          and going with the flow than I was just two               As Covid-19 upended Jacqueline Thorn-
          weeks ago.”                                            ton’s life, she immersed herself in a course
              That, said Angela Duckworth, is how                called “Changing Minds, Changing Lives.”
          it’s supposed to work.                                                       It’s a student-resilience
          Duckworth, a psychol-                                                        curriculum developed a
          ogy professor at the             “It might appear                            dozen years ago by Gen-
          University of Pennsyl-                                                       evieve Chandler, a pro-
          vania, stamped a buzz-
                                        that someone is less                           fessor of nursing at the
          word on education with        resilient when in fact                         University of Massachu-
          her 2016 best seller,                                                        setts at Amherst. The
          Grit: The Power of Pas-        they’re just trying to                        course, which involves
          sion and Perseverance.                                                       eight to 10 sessions over
              She is far from be-
                                         navigate things that                          several weeks, is focused
          ing a Pollyanna about         other students don’t                           on mindfulness tech-
          the pandemic, partic-                                                        niques, yoga postures,
          ularly on the heels of               have to.”                               and reflective writing
          her father’s death from                                                      exercises.
          Covid-19. While she                                                              “We teach adaptive
          sees grit and grieving as “in some ways in             resilience,” Chandler said. In other words:
          tension,” like most tensions, it can be re-            “Bend and come back.”
          solved, she said.                                         Thornton, a UMass senior, has struggled
              The first week off campus, more of her             with her mental health for years. She tried
          students failed to turn in work than they              therapy, but it was hard to fit into her busy
          ever had. She reached out to them, said that           schedule. Then, as a junior, she discovered
          she wanted to make sure they were OK, and              “Changing Minds, Changing Lives.” She
          told them that if they weren’t they should             loved the course so much that she took it
          text or call her for help. But if they were all        again this semester.
          right, she wrote them, “I really look forward             As part of the course, Thornton and her
          to getting your assignments.”                          classmates completed an assessment of
              “Sure enough,” she said, “all of my stu-           their strengths. One of hers is being an “ac-
          dents turned in their work. They wrote me              tivator.” She’s good at making plans.
          apologies. They explained.”                               Back in March, when classes went on-
              Resilience “is not the exception to the            line, Thornton had decided to spend the
          rule, it is the rule,” Duckworth said. There           rest of her final semester with her family in
          are real worries for this generation of col-           Boston, instead of with her friends in her
          lege students — health, housing and food               off-campus apartment. Quickly, she started

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion                 21                             m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
feeling left out. She was plagued by nega-              the transition to online learning. But she has
                   tive thoughts: They don’t like me anymore.              adopted a resilient mind-set: “Do not be up-
                   They don’t miss me.                                     set about the things you can’t change.”
                      That’s the kind of thinking the resilience              The resilience project doesn’t just point
                   course taught Thornton to recognize and                 students to sophisticated mindfulness rou-
                   reject. She remembered that she was an                  tines. It emphasizes basic survival mecha-
                   “activator.” So she planned virtual hang-               nisms, said Karen Oehme, director of Flor-
                   outs with her friends — and made sure they              ida State’s Institute for Family Violence
                   actually happened.                                      Studies. Did you drink enough water today?
                      One recent day, feeling overwhelmed,                 Did you get fresh air? Did you get enough
                   Thornton cried for an hour. But the re-                 sleep?
                   silience course taught her that’s OK.                      At William & Mary, there’s been more in-
                   “Through resiliency, you can figure out a               terest than usual in resilience-focused pro-
                   way to do the crying and do the anger and               grams since the pandemic began, Crace said.
                   be really emotional,” she said, “but not get            More than 13,000 people have participated in
                   down on yourself for feeling that way.”                 virtual offerings that range from a two-min-
                      Research backs up the course’s effective-            ute meditation to an art-therapy video. Stu-
                   ness. Student athletes who’ve taken it are              dents have told Crace that they finally have
                   less stressed and more                                                         time for resilience train-
                   capable of regulating                                                          ing now — and that they
                   their emotions.                             “If any of us are                  need it more than ever.
                      At Florida State Uni-                 having trouble getting                   Grit and resilience are
                   versity, students can                                                          not personality traits,
                   turn to the Student Re-                   out of bed one day,                  Crace said. They are de-
                   silience Project web-                                                          veloped with practice.
                   site for resources on                     or have several bad                  “People who flourish are
                   breathing, responding                    days, that just means                 not less afraid, worried,
                   to a panic attack, and                                                         or upset about what’s
                   “grounding,” which en-                     we’re responding                    going on around them,”
                   courages focusing on                                                           he said. “They have just
                   today instead of wor-                       appropriately to                   worked at holding these
                   rying about tomorrow.                          the crisis.”                    emotions and thoughts
                   University leaders have                                                        in a healthy manner.”
                   regularly promoted the                                                            Grit and resilience
                   resilience project in their messages to the             are worthy goals, but are they realistic ones
                   campus community.                                       right now? Not only do college students
                      There’s also a campus organization                   have to absorb the shock of displacement
                   reaching out to far-flung students. If online           from their campus lives, but they have to
                   learning continues this fall, the Resilient             turn it into a saga of triumph and growth?
                   Noles — as the group is called — hope to                That expectation seems a bit much to Lau-
                   ask professors if they can pop into virtual             ra Horne, chief program officer for Active
                   classes and briefly talk about resilience.              Minds.
                      “You can help yourself,” said Rima Patel,               “If any of us are having trouble getting
                   a Florida State junior and president of Re-             out of bed one day, or have several bad
                   silient Noles. Using the counseling center              days, that just means we’re responding ap-
                   remotely isn’t an option for her, she said,             propriately to the crisis,” she said.
                   because she feels less comfortable talking                 The grit-and-resilience narrative can un-
                   about mental health at home. Instead, she               fairly suggest some character flaw among
                   watches the resilience project’s videos on              today’s students, Horne said.
                   tolerating frustration, and how physical                   Mark Patishnock, director of counseling
                   space affects well-being.                               and psychiatric services at Michigan State
                      Patel was on track to get all A’s this semes-        University, said it often builds in assump-
                   ter before the pandemic. She struggled with             tions — about financial resources, fami-

m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a              22              t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion
ly culture, and other privileges. “We risk           you stronger and this is going to make you a
          alienating a lot of the students we want to          more resilient person.’”
          help,” he said.                                         Betsy Cracco, executive director of well-
             Patishnock pointed to the racial dispari-         being, access, and prevention at UMass,
          ties in those affected by Covid-19 in Michi-         agrees. But stress hurts students’ abili-
          gan. African Americans make up 14 percent            ty to learn, she said, and colleges can re-
          of the state’s population, but they account          spond by helping students understand their
          for one-third of the cases and 41 percent            strengths and tap into them when they feel
          of the deaths as of May 11. That is having           overwhelmed. Many resilience programs,
          a disproportionate impact on Michigan                like UMass’s course, are evidence-based,
          State’s students of color, he said.                  she added. “It’s like medication,” she said:
             “It might appear that someone is less re-         Why withhold helpful treatment?
          silient when in fact they’re just trying to             Some resilience practices are easy to in-
          navigate things that other students don’t            corporate, Cracco said. Start classes with
          have to,” he said.                                   three minutes of breathing or a two-minute
                                                               wellness infomercial. In the middle of a lec-
          PSYCHIC SCARS?                                       ture, get up and twist around. Create buddy
                                                               systems and small groups in which students
             George Bonanno, a professor of clinical           can help one another through their stressors.
          psychology at Columbia University’s Teach-              Colleges can also remind students
          ers College, believes some counselors and            about available resources that are a text,
          therapists have a distortedly pessimistic            an email, or a phone call away. “More than
          view of how students will emerge from the            half of students,” the April Active Minds
          Covid-19 era. “If you see pain all the time,         survey reported, “say that they would not
          you think pain is the norm.”                         know where to go if they or someone they
             For 30 years, said Bonanno, who runs Co-          knew needed professional mental-health
          lumbia’s Loss, Trauma, and Emotion Lab,              services right away.”
          his research has shown that “human beings               When a traumatized population starts
          are very resilient through traumatic events,         returning to campus, colleges will need to
          stressor events, natural disasters, medical          vet students’ mental health as diligently as
          emergencies. … I think the same thing is             they do their physical health, Lipson said.
          very much true for this Covid epidemic.”             “Assessment is hugely important,” she said.
             “We aren’t going to see massive psycho-              Moreover, students might learn a thing
          logical breakdowns over this,” he said.              or two from classmates who have struggled
             What might be toughest for most stu-              with their mental health for years.
          dents, he and other experts said, is uncer-             Their grit takes many different forms,
          tainty and needless confusion. Regular,              like MIT’s Ai Bui, the self-taught ukulele
          no-nonsense communication — even if it’s             player who sat on the edge of a universi-
          just to say, “Things are still up in the air,        ty stage in October, singing away years of
          but here are the factors we’re monitoring”           trauma, depression, and eating disorders in
          — is the most constructive approach col-             an original song called “Darling Me.”
          lege leaders can take, Bonanno said.                    “What I went through before — I often say
             Officials must be thoughtful about the            this to my therapist — I’ve been to the bottom
          mental-health messages they send their               of the bottom,” Bui told The Chronicle, “so
          students, said Sarah Ketchen Lipson, an              whatever happens, I know I can get through it
          assistant professor of health law, policy,           and get out of it and keep moving on.”
          and management at Boston University and
                                                               Sarah Brown is a senior reporter who covers
          co-principal investigator of the Healthy
                                                               campus culture, including Title IX, race and
          Minds Study, which assesses students’
                                                               diversity, and student mental health for The
          mental health.
                                                               Chronicle. Alexander C. Kafka is a Chronicle
             It’s important to create a space for stu-
                                                               senior editor.
          dents to grieve, Lipson said, “before we
          start talking about ‘this is going to make           Originally published May 11, 2020

t h e ch ron icl e of h igh er educ at ion               23                            m e n ta l w e l l- b e i n g i n t h e c o v i d e r a
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