Photo by KJ Ryan / The Collegian

By Leslie Grajeda / Staff Writer

The Covid-19 pandemic took the wind out of students’ sails and their mental health from shutdowns suspending direct human contact to schools rapidly moving online.

Christopher Lau

“We are social animals, as humans,” said Christopher Lau, Hutchinson Community College’s Coordinator of Advising, Career Development and Counseling.

As shutdowns began, some students started to notice negative aspects of their lives and could not pinpoint what they were.

It’s OK not to be OK, and students have valid reasons to feel negative emotions. Students fearing themselves or their family becoming sick, arguing over the virus’ politicization, and the cancelation of social interactions contributed to feelings of unease and despair, Lau said.

While the desire to not further spread the virus is justifiable, the social pressure not to be “the screw-up” can also become too much to bear, Lau said.

Having more leisure time at home exposed students to political turmoil, panic, police brutality, and hospital overcrowding more than they would be normally. Students who cared about these issues, but felt unable to catch up, may have become tired and weary.

Also, the increase in time alone or with family could have exacerbated the mental and familial issues students may have experienced before the outbreak.

“This pandemic is like a spotlight that can’t be turned off. It shines a light on issues that no longer can be ignored,” Lau said.

Specifically, the pandemic’s effect on education forced pressure and anxiety on some students.

“Changing from face-to-face learning to online learning was a kick in the face,” Scott City sophomore Karina Ryala said. “As someone who does not learn well online, I knew this was going to be a hard end to my first year of college.”

Ryala said she lost motivation for school during the transition.

While they appreciate classes starting up again, she and other students are somewhat fearful of doing so in the middle of a pandemic.

The mask mandate helped ease anxiety, but seeing many on campus without a mask made the anxiety return.

“Here’s a virus killing millions of people, and now we are all together again,” Ryala said. “As someone with health issues, I’m scared to catch the virus.”

During this time of hardship, students are encouraged to follow HutchCC’s Covid-19 guidelines, as well as city and county recommendations.

The Student Success Center in Parker Student Union offers free mental health services. In partnership with HutchCC, Prairie Star provides two free appointments at their facility for mental health, sexually-transmitted-infection treatment, or other health issues. Horizons Mental Health Center offers medication plans and outpatient care.

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