Mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak has taken a definite hit as people in different parts of the globe grapple with uncertainty surrounding the current scenario. Social distancing, battling loneliness and anxiety are far more likely, especially for those who are far away from their families and their core support systems. Experts predict that this is going to be a challenging situation to tackle in terms of mental health, and are urging people to not neglect their mental health and well-being.
The WHO asks people to be more empathetic towards those affected by the virus, avoid anxiety-inducing triggers such as following too many news stories around the outbreak, staying in touch with loved ones and not turning to unhealthy coping methods such as alcohol. However, this gets trickier for students, especially those who are far away from their home countries and dealing with unexpected outcomes such as canceled classes, exams, postponed schedules and semesters. Many students are caught in a state of limbo as they try to figure out whether to stay put or head back home to their families.
Universities are stepping up to offer support to their students. For example, students at The University of Sydney can use several helplines to reach out in case they need support and aren’t sure where to turn to. Similarly, UC Berkeley has counseling services available for its students while a free mental health app is making help more accessible for students at The University of Missouri through tips to manage their well-being and keep stress at bay.
On a larger scale, students can also turn to mainstream apps like Snapchat for respite. Snapchat is currently offering a tool called “Here for you” which lets users find helpful resources in combating coronavirus-related anxiety. It has teamed up with partners like the NHS and WHO to offer content to users tackling stress during the outbreak: a smart move considering apps like Snapchat have a large number of young users.
That said, students across the globe including in some of the worst-hit regions such as Italy and China still need more resources to manage their mental health, especially considering the fact that it’s an ongoing process and many students may be concerned about their academic prospects during this time. China has several 24/7 helplines for those coping with the aftermath of the outbreak including support groups from Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology on QQ, one of the most used social media platforms in the country.
Perhaps what can really help is being more empathetic as a collective, especially online where vulnerable users may come searching for help and advice.