Student’s Mental Health during the Pandemic – For Better, or Worse?

Lance Klemple, Contributing Writer

When we were children, life was dripping cherry popsicles in the summer and playing capture the flag until the streetlights flickered on. There wasn’t much to worry about. But as we grow older, our lives change. Stress, in particular, begins to affect our health and well-being. Throw in a pandemic, and stress turns into anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Keeping up on mental health is key to feeling whole as an adult. From personal experience with mental illness, MCC students share what it’s like to cope during the pandemic.

She is a mother, a healthcare worker, and a student at MCC. Natasha Paulsen knows firsthand how important mental health is. “I suffer from depression and anxiety… I feel like those who already suffer from depression and anxiety are suffering more,” Paulsen said while speaking on how the pandemic affects those who already struggle with mental health. “I think my depression is worse because of being stuck at home all the time and not being able to go to too many places,” empathizing with others who also struggle with depression and anxiety.

For Keegan Colcleasure, a student at MCC, the pandemic brings both good and bad side effects. “Because it [the pandemic] has screwed up my mental health so much, it gave me the kick that I needed to get my mental health to a better place.”

Though the pandemic has taken away some of his favorite hobbies like Jujitsu, he recognizes there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic. “Since I’ve been in quarantine… I’ve learned to be much more in touch with myself and a lot more introspective about my thoughts,” Colcleasure said, hinting at a smile.

Jaden Skivers, an MCC student who is part of the Early College Newaygo County program, watches Adam Sandler movies when she feels sad or overwhelmed. Skivers used to enjoy alone time, but now the feeling has changed.

“I have always been introverted, but I have never hated being alone more,” Skivers said. “I feel like every mental health issue I have has somehow worsened.” Skivers said she used to have a schedule, but staying in bed has become the new normal, “Now, I have a hard time waking up most mornings at a normal time and I feel like a zombie all the time… I typically wake up for class and then fall asleep shortly after, I always just feel overwhelmingly exhausted.”

A study done in 2017 has found that social isolation and loneliness are linked to worsened mental health. Paulsen’s experience, among many others, shows the balancing act between staying mentally sound and staying safe from COVID proves to be difficult. “They [Paulsen’s friends] have worse depression than me. They are the ones in bed all the time… with COVID and being home more often, their depression is ten times worse,” Paulsen said with heaviness in her voice. Skivers reflects on how we may have taken our social lives for granted, “Normalcy seems so boring until it’s ripped away.”

Skivers offers this final piece of advice to students like her. “Struggling doesn’t make you any less smart or any less capable of all that you are, and you should not belittle yourself for having a hard time. You will overcome this, and you will build yourself back up to the same healthy place you were once at.”