Due to concerns over COVID-19, San Diego State is providing a majority of its instruction online for the fall semester. For many, the transition from in-person classes to remote learning is an isolating and stressful experience.
In addition to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the current political climate, this extra burden has prompted a growing concern for the mental health of college students who are taking online classes.
For psychology junior and President of Active Minds Kaitlin Chau, the lack of physical community is one of the biggest challenges of online schooling.
“It doesn’t feel as connected or genuine as it was on campus,” Chau said. “The social isolation has been the hardest for me in terms of mental health and not having that support.”
Although SDSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services office is physically closed for the fall semester, their resources remain virtually available for all students regardless of their current location.
Dr. Jennifer Rikard, SDSU’s director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said some common misconceptions on campus are that their department is too busy to provide support, or that students’ problems are too insignificant for them to receive help.
“Struggling right now is not surprising or unusual,” Rikard said. “But that doesn’t mean that there’s not (any) help. I really hope students seek that out so they can get better, and we can move through these times to get back to a normal.”
Dr. Martin Doucett, former associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services and current faculty psychologist, encourages reluctant students to test out their services.
“Be open to giving it a try,” Doucett said. “A therapist, unlike a family member or a friend, has no agenda for you. They don’t expect anything from you. They’re just there to try and provide some help and support.”
For students who may be unsure of which specific resources to seek out, the best way to start is by calling or emailing Counseling and Psychological Services with any questions or concerns, Rikard said.
From there, students can set up a phone consultation with a therapist who will provide personalized recommendations for resources such as individual therapy, groups, workshops and other programs.
Some students are looking for a more informal experience where they can receive advice for specific problems or have any other questions answered, Doucett said. For those, he recommended the Talk It Out program, which is a drop-in counseling service provided virtually through Zoom on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Rikard said students should also keep an eye on the Counseling and Psychological Services Instagram page and website, which are regularly updated with new resources such as online mental health assessments and COVID-19 self-care guides.
In addition to utilizing university resources, both Rikard and Doucett emphasized the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle and practicing self-care. This includes getting adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise on a daily basis.
For those who are struggling as a result of the pandemic, Rikard suggests they make sure to tend to their current needs, while also remembering that this is not a permanent situation.
“I think that it’s helpful for people to envision a different time,” Rikard said.“This is something that we are going through that will come to an end.”
Chau wants other students to remember this: they are not alone in this situation, and many of their peers are experiencing similar struggles right now.
“It may seem like everyone has it together but they probably don’t,” Chau said. “It’s okay that they don’t and it’s okay that you don’t either. You have to practice that empathy not only with others but [with] yourself.”
Counseling and Psychological Services is available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Their after-hours crisis line is 888-724-7240. For more information about their online resources, visit their webpage.