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Anxiety, depression increase amid pandemic, turbulent politics

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Destinee Mondragon
Staff Writer

As students struggle with COVID-19, a critical election year and uncertainty for their future, mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety among this age group are, not surprisingly, on the rise. 

A survey of 18,764 students on 14 campuses conducted by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescents showed that depression has increased to 40.9% across campuses by the early days of the pandemic. 

Many of the students responding to that survey reported that their mental health issues negatively impacted their academic performance. The survey concluded that the factors that played into this increase were not only the pandemic or fears of the deadly disease, but also the stress from academics and lack of social interaction, along with financial stress and their living conditions. 

These themes ring true among the University of La Verne population.

“We’ve seen an increase in the use of counseling center services and student outreach and support in making sure students get as much support as possible for themselves,” said Juan Regalado, chief student affairs officer.

For some students at the University, the switch to online and needing to redirect their lifestyles has been challenging. 

“For me especially, through the end of last year and the summer, when I did not necessarily have my own place to go, I was not able to fully put myself into my school work and focus clearly.” said Ryan Sigston, senior political science major.

Sigston said not knowing how his senior year was going to play out was hard to process.

“That made me have a lot of anxiety,” Sigston said. “For many students that I know, their mental health is not great right now, and it’s hard to figure out what to do about that with all of the restraints caused by the pandemic.”

Students can utilize mental health support outlets such as the University Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, the different programs that the Lewis Center has been hosting, and Student Outreach and Support, or SOS. 

Regalado said  that there has been a 42% increase in students La Verne utilizing SOS, compared to last year at this time. 

Among these cases, Regalado said,  20% of those cases are for emotional distress, 20% are for academic difficulties, and 8% are for COVID-19 distress. 

Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain, said her office is also working to support students in this time of unprecedented stress. 

“(It) is part of a larger effort on campus to really think through carefully on how to really support students, faculty and staff,” Wagoner said. “My piece of the puzzle in contribution  is really supporting what I call a spiritual life or supporting our inner self.”

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has workshops that focus on our mental state and therapeutic programs to get in touch with our minds, including a weekly group meditation that allows participants to focus their minds on one thing  and give their minds a rest even while awake. The goal is to pay attention and witness what is going on in one’s body and mind and to have a peaceful moment, Wagoner said.

“I feel that all the departments coming together and creating these workshops and programs has been an absolute pleasure,” said Wagoner. 

There is a new workshop called Energy Balancing Through Breathwork, in which participants are introduced to breathwork for relaxation, Wagoner said, adding that breathing helps regulate the nervous system and helps one feel calm and relaxed.

The CAPS web page  states that trigger warnings for struggles in mental health can vary from one person to the next and include difficulty falling asleep, the inability to concentrate, and a lack of interest. If any of these symptoms persist, and it is too much to handle alone, it is important to see a qualified health-care provider. 

According to the CAPS web page, stress is a physiological and psychological response of the body to some sort of threat to our safety, self-esteem, or well-being. Stressors can affect an individual physically via illness,  socially, psychologically. 

CAPS recommends managing minor stress by taking a deep breath, reducing time in stress-producing situations and using other self-relaxation techniques.    

“COVID and being virtual have created additional challenges,” Regalado said.  “As a community we are focusing on providing support in new and different ways to meet the challenge and the need,” said Regalado. 

ULV has been using social media platforms and Campus Labs to create community for students during these challenging times.

The  Lewis Center with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has created programs that support students’ well-being including yoga, pilates, and workshops on motivation. 

CAPS is also offering telecounseling with no session limits. For more information call, 909-448-4105 or email CAPS@laverne.edu

To submit an SOS report, visit laverne.edu/student-outreach/sos-behavior-wellness-referral-report.

If you are experiencing a psychological emergency, call Aurora Charter Oak Hospital at 800-654-2673. 

Destinee Mondragon can be reached at destinee.mondragon@laverne.edu.

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