Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Adjusting to the pandemic, Cornell Health provides online mental health resources, along with other organizations on campus.

April 13, 2020

From Campus to Zoom: How Student Mental Health Support Has Changed

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While scrolling through endless Cornell Instagram bingos and throwback pictures of Libe Slope can remind students of what they’re missing, some also feel the loss of mental health resources, now that they can no longer make an appointment to get in-person help.

“I think people are connecting in different ways,” said Rachel Bradley ’20, president of Cornell Minds Matter, a mental health advocacy organization on campus. “And it can be hard for people to figure out how to virtually reach out to someone and be like, ‘How are you doing?’”

According to Bradley, in these times of isolation, the way people normally communicate with each other might change.

“I guess sometimes it’s re-learning how to reach out and talk to a friend on the phone,” Bradley said.

A variety of organizations on campus including Cornell Minds Matter, the Learning Strategies Center and Cornell LGBT Resource Center have committed to providing resources, such as virtual discussion spaces and advice, for students to connect and reach out to one another.

Bradley spoke to the importance of such services to students who may be in a variety of family situations and health circumstances.

“Mental health isn’t something that goes away… and we wanted to make sure there was something that we were still doing and we have a pretty large team of officers who have been keeping it going,” said Bradley.

Cornell Minds Matter’s concern for the mental health of students during the online transition was the primary motive behind continuing panels and events for the rest of the semester.

“Isolating can also be a sign that something is going wrong with your mental health,” Bradley said. “So that’s something that we’re always concerned about –– thinking about trying to help people have connections instead of [complete] isolation at a time when we’ve stepped away from one another.”

The organization posts daily tips for dealing with the pandemic and motivational advice. Cornell Minds Matter has also posted about weekly events on its Facebook and Twitter.

Such events include “Zoom at Noon” and “Grow with me!” The former is a collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students, Cornell Health and other guest panelists to discuss how quarantine has affected people’s lives, and provides an opportunity for students to ask questions on how these groups are adapting to help students during the pandemic.

“Grow with me!” is a social Zoom series held on Wednesdays at 6 p.m., where students can engage in activities like baking and  arts and crafts together. Last week, students joined the call to make fried mac and cheese bites.

Such virtual events have transformed the very nature of Cornell Minds Matter, which has largely been based on in-person meet ups which are very central to campus. These meet-ups revolved around physical activity, such as group yoga sessions, or included weekly trips to Wegmans.

Although many other student organizations have paused operations and activities, Cornell Minds Matter is connected to the Dean of Students Office which makes it easier for them to still operate.

“We’re very lucky to be connected to administration,” Bradley said.“They are still working and that means there’s so much to fall back on like organizing events and staying connected to campus, so that’s been very helpful.”

The organization has been trying to reach out to other groups on campus to provide them with a platform to reach out to the Cornell community. Bradley mentioned a collaboration with different dance groups on campus to host dance events over Zoom on Fridays.

Other resources on campus have also remained active.

Every Wednesday night, the LGBT Resource Center hosts weekly discussions to check in on the community, as well as  “Virtual Show and Tell” Zoom meetings to share art.

The Learning Strategies Center also hosts Zoom information sessions to answer questions on online school learning strategies. The website provides tips on productivity, stress and time management.

Cornell Health is providing individual counseling sessions over the phone for New York State residents. Twenty-five minute appointments are free and covered by the Student Health Plans — which includes both SHP/ SHP+ packages — and 50 minute appointments have a $10 co-pay.

The health center is still working through requirements on phone-counseling for students residing outside of New York State, its website read.

For Bradley, it’s important for students to know that there are resources available and students to prioritize their mental health.

“Be kind to yourself,” Bradley said. “Try not to expect the next written masterpiece from yourself. Taking care of yourself is enough.”