Active Minds at WVU President Delaney Geib fears that the lack of in-person connection during the pandemic is deteriorating mental health on campus.
“You can’t be there to tell them it’s okay,” Geib said. “You can just stare into a computer screen and say it’s all going to be okay... we’re here for you in spirit.”
There are currently 846 students in quarantine and 428 students in isolation based on a University COVID-19 update on Sept. 8.
As cases continue to rise, universities across the nation are faced with emerging mental health concerns. According to a survey conducted by Active Minds in April, 80% of college students reported that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health.
“The fact that some residence halls are already quarantined is scary,” Geib said. “Their mental health is deteriorating.”
Geib said Active Minds, one of the nation’s leading organizations focusing on mental health awareness and education, has started to reach out to WVU Housing and Residence Life in an effort to promote mental health awareness. She believes students in isolation, such as those in Arnold Apartments, are the highest risk.
According to a survey conducted by the Active Minds national chapter, stress and anxiety are the most common way the coronavirus is impacting students. In severe cases, mental health challenges can lead to substance abuse or even suicide.
September is recognized as National Suicide Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of U.S. adults struggled with mental health and 11% considered suicide in late June.
“We’re getting to that quarantine state again where people are being left on their own with nothing else to do,” Geib said.
Although the Carruth Center offers services to students in need, its physical office is closed until further notice, and services are primarily available through telehealth and other online platforms.
Geib fears the lack of human contact could further challenge the University’s attempts in fostering a positive mental health environment during the pandemic.
“I think the University is really trying to handle [mental health] as best they can,” said Geib. “It's just, they've got so many other things to deal with.”
Active Minds WVU held its first meeting of the semester over Zoom on Sept. 3, and due to health and safety concerns, the organization is meeting virtually biweekly.
Geib and other organization members planned events, such as a raffle and promotional event, on Sept. 10 — World Suicide Prevention Day.
“We have to reach out and just let them know we’re here,” Geib said. “A lot of people don’t know we exist.”
The University offers several resources for collegiate mental health disorders, such as counseling at the Carruth Center and Active Minds WVU, but many students on campus are unaware of these resources.
Geib said mental health is generally forgotten about in the day-to-day life of an average college student.
“What’s going to come last?” Geib asked. “It’s going to be that you’re stressed out comes last because you’re going to focus on everything else because it doesn’t really seem that important.”
The stress and anxiety that college students typically experience is stimulated further by the uncertainty of the semester. Likewise, the absence of counseling services and in-person classes can increase negative psychological consequences, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Geib said she plans to contact WVU President E. Gordon Gee in order to reach the entire student body about the importance of mental awareness amid a pandemic.
Active Minds WVU is working to destigmatize mental health on campus. A lot of students are unaware that they may have mental health illnesses, which can lead to severe consequences.
Geib said mental health disorders are most preventable during the early stages.
“I had depression, I had anxiety and I just didn’t know what to do about it,” Geib said.
She said she began to suffer from depression in college. After losing two friends to substance abuse and suicide within the same week, she decided to visit the Carruth Center.
“I figured out — wow, you can meditate, you can read, you can go sit outside, you can talk to somebody at the Carruth Center and they’ll tell you different ways to help,” Geib said.
Geib began her position as the Active Minds WVU president this semester, and she plans to increase the organization’s publicity on campus. As the pandemic continues to produce uncertainty, mental health disorders are predicted to rise.
“Having a support network and really understanding mental health is the problem,” Geib said. “We want to be that support network and we want to be that educator about mental health.”