Mustang News put out a poll on our Instagram asking students to rate their mental health on a scale from 0-100. The poll received over 400 responses, with 124 of them rating their mental health at zero. The overall average rating was less than 50.
History junior Emma Hayden said this quarter has been especially difficult for her and she attributed that to online learning.
“With everything being kind of uncertain, it’s been hard to keep up good self-care habits,” Hayden said. “It’s just been difficult to maintain my mental health.”
She said one of the most effective ways for her to learn is through communication with others. She said it has been so hard for her to meet new people this quarter, so that has become more difficult.
Worrying about her grades has also been a source of stress, Hayden said. Since she is struggling to adapt to online learning, her grades have also somewhat suffered, which Hayden said is something she has been working with her therapist to get through.
Hayden has been working with a therapist off-campus for about a year and a half, and she said that it has been helping her to work through some of her mental health concerns.
“My therapist has helped by making sure I remember that it’s fine if my grades slip a little bit, and by reminding me that it’s okay to take time for myself if I need it and to be kind to myself because I’m not all the time,” Hayden said.
“My therapist has helped by making sure I remember that it’s fine if my grades slip a little bit, and by reminding me that it’s okay to take time for myself if I need it and to be kind to myself because I’m not all the time.”
Wine and viticulture junior Ava Brackenbury said that this quarter has been better for her than this past Spring quarter, but she said that it has still been difficult for her mental health.
Like Hayden, Brackenbury said that not being able to meet new people has been one of the main reasons she is struggling this quarter.
“I like hanging out with people and meeting new people a lot, and since I can’t really do that it’s been hard,” Brackenbury said. “Just being confined to the same space and the same people has definitely been one big thing that has taken a toll on my mental health.”
Brackenbury said that she wishes professors would be more understanding during this time.
One of her roommates tested positive for COVID-19 this quarter, and Brackenbury said she was forced to file for emergency unemployment.
During the time that she was on the phone with an unemployment office, she realized she had missed an assignment and reached out to her professor to ask for an extension. Her professor responded three days later when he told her that she could turn it in late, but that for every day the assignment was late, she would lose 5 percent from her score. This meant she had already lost 15 percent in the three days that the professor took to respond.
“That’s one big thing that’s been really frustrating,” Brackenbury said. “The lack of understanding has been extra stressful.”
Materials engineering junior Christopher Thornburgh said that he has been feeling extra lonely this quarter.
“It’s hard not seeing people every day in class, or when you’re walking to class and you see someone and you just say ‘Hi’ for a few seconds,” Thorburgh said. “Those little things help to keep you sane.”
Online learning has also taken a toll on Thornburgh’s mental health, he said.
“I don’t feel connected to any of the work I’m doing in any way,” Thornburg said. “Even if it’s something I can physically do, I just lack the motivation to even think about it because I feel so detached from it.”
Thornburgh has attended both the anxiety and the depression workshops at the Cal Poly Counseling Center, which he said has helped him to normalize his feelings and thoughts about his mental health.
“In those moments when I’m feeling horrible and just laying in bed for hours, I’m not sitting there telling myself that I need to get up and do work,” Thornburg said. “Instead, I can kind of forgive myself, and remind myself that it’s not as simple as just toughing it out.”
“In those moments when I’m feeling horrible and just laying in bed for hours, I’m not sitting there telling myself that I need to get up and do work.”
Cynthia Breaux is a psychology lecturer and a licensed therapist. She said that the results of the poll were concerning, but they were not entirely surprising to her.
“If you put it in perspective, young people now have gone through a global situation that may happen once in a century, [something like this] has certainly never happened before in my lifetime,” Breaux said. “Many people go through an entire lifetime without having such a major event happen, so the fact that people are feeling overwhelmed, out of control, helpless and especially fearful makes complete and total sense.”
She said that the fires on the west coast combined with the upcoming election may also be causing even more stress for people.
For students who are struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, Breaux recommends reaching out to one friend a day, preferably over video call, to get some social interaction. For extroverts who require more than that, she recommends reaching out to three people. She also said that if students are in the position to do so, getting a pet can really help to feel less alone.
She added that getting outside is important in maintaining good mental health.
“Even just walking around the building you live in will give you a huge boost,” Breaux said.
Breaux had three pieces of advice for students who may be experiencing symptoms of mental illness for the first time in their lives due to these “unprecedented global events.”
First, she said she wants students to know that they are not alone and that many people are experiencing similar feelings of fear, helplessness and loss of control. Second, she said she urges people who are struggling not to let the stigma surrounding mental illness prevent them from reaching out for help. Finally, she said she wants to remind students who are struggling that this will eventually pass.
“Recognize how you are already getting through this because people are; they’re getting through this,” Breaux said. “One thing I can say sitting at the age that I am is that things always shift. This will lift, and so it’s a matter of tolerating things and coping until it does lift.”