Strain from COVID-19 pandemic, online classes can increase anxiety, depression

Counseling Services is located near Lafene Health Center. Students can make an appointment online through the Counseling Services Portal. (File photo by Dalton Wainscott I Collegian Media Group)

COVID-19 is an added weight in some Kansas State students’ lives and those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Brent Schneider, psychologist at Counseling Services, said COVID-19 has made things worse for students and others in terms of mental health issues.

“While some people struggle more than others, there have been impacts to everyone,” Schneider said. “With [COVID-19], in addition to symptoms of SAD, now we have students who are under additional strain with online classes, traveling and physical distancing. So, [COVID-19] is not helping at all in terms of individuals who already struggle with depression or SAD.”

Depression or SAD can develop from stress and anxiety some college students may already have. In some cases, college students don’t know how to get proper professional help.

Kodee Walls, Counseling Services assistant director, said it is very important for students to read their emails.

“Lafene Health Center has been sending out regular emails to all currently enrolled students with essential information about COVID-19,” Walls said. “Regarding mental health resources, Counseling Services is available to help. As students go back home, we do encourage them to take a break from school and give themselves breathing room.”

Logan Winters, sophomore in secondary education, said as a student, he’s noticed other students typically do not use the resources they are given.

“But I’ve used them and they’ve helped a lot with dealing with stress that comes from dealing with [COVID-19] problems,” Winters said.

Seasonal depression symptoms can include a loss of sleep or appetite, feeling lonely and a lack of motivation, along with other signs students may not catch.

“[Seasonal depression] often relates to exposure to natural light for those who experience symptoms in the wintertime,” Walls said. “The more time you spend indoors, the less likely you’re exposed to the sunshine, the more likely you are to get the winter signals of ‘slow down and conserve.'”

Walls said anxiety and depression can be co-morbid, so people who experience one can experience the other.

“It’s important to notice the ‘pink flags,’ or worsening mental health, and intervene early rather than wait and hope it goes away,” Walls said. “Mental health treatment can be the difference between the ‘winter blues’ and a full-blown major depressive episode.”

As the fall semester begins to wrap up, many students are traveling home for break. Walls said students should monitor their mental and physical health to ensure they stay safe and healthy, not only for themselves but for their loved ones as well.

“If people follow the CDC guidelines to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, they may very much be touch- and connection-starved,” Walls said. “For some folks who were vulnerable to anxiety anyway, COVID-19 may have exacerbated those fears and worries.”

Many resources are available for students who may have depression or concerns about the virus. Students can call Counseling Services on campus at 785-532-6927 or visit the K-State website for more information and updates about COVID-19.