Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The State Theatre on March 18, 2020. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered all theaters to close on Monday, March 16.

February 14, 2021

Mental Health Resources, Students Stretched Thin Through Pandemic

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As students are relegated to their dorm rooms or hotel isolation rooms because of COVID-19 spread and frigid temperatures, added pressures are taking a toll on students. 

In a normal semester, students struggle to balance school work, extracurricular activities and social life with mental wellness. Within the stressful, isolating context of the pandemic, college students struggle more than ever — 63 percent of college students reported worsened mental health since the start of the pandemic.

After potential COVID exposures, students must spend 10 days alone in the Statler Hotel — but this isn’t without personal consequence. For example, Maria Moreau ’24 expressed concern about her mental health deteriorating as her stay progresses.

To cope, Moreau has relied on virtual socialization: “Having group FaceTimes and doing things virtually with friends has helped a lot with being in isolation,” she said.

During their quarantine, students can participate in virtual activities organized by the University, including meditation and yoga classes and events such as a daily photo challenge to create a “quarantine collage.” Quarantined students also have access to confidential counseling drop-in hours.

Outside of this service, students looking for someone to talk to have fewer options this semester. The Empathy, Assistance and Referral Service, Cornell’s peer counseling organization, has closed for the remainder of the spring semester, as of Jan. 18. This follows its decision to stop fall telephone counseling on Nov. 30 due to technical problems. EARS training, education and outreach will continue, but students cannot rely on it as an active counseling resource.

Cornell Health, however, continues to offer Counseling and Psychological services for students dealing with anxiety, depression, adjustment challenges and other mental health concerns. The program includes a variety of options — 24/7 phone consultations, individual and group counseling sessions, drop-in meetings with attending mental health professionals and workshops available across the semester. However, for students studying out of state, Cornell Health is legally restricted from providing diagnostic and clinical services.

Another resource available to students is Cornell Minds Matter, a student-run organization that provides support to students through virtual campaigns and events. The organization has upped their social media activity since spring 2020 according to CMM president Bianca Beckwith ’22.

This past fall, CMM led the virtual CUSmile tour that introduced students to mental health resources on campus through videos and an interactive map. On Instagram, CMM started a quarantine stories page which featured students and introduced them to an audience by talking about their lives. Before the end of the fall semester, CMM successfully hosted an in-person tie-dye party, where students could destress and connect with peers after a challenging semester.

This semester, CMM has also been active, partnering with Knit With Care to host virtual knitting sessions throughout January, as well as holding a “Mental Health 101 Workshop.” 

Looking forward, Beckwith worried that this year’s lack of spring break may pose a mental health challenge to students used to having the time away from schoolwork to unwind.

“This wasn’t the vision I had for my junior year spring break,” said Beckwith. But we all have a responsibility to recognize the importance of being smart and safe in this moment.”