Before COVID-19, studies have shown stress anxiety is common among university students. The problem only increased during the pandemic. Students have had to adjust by using video conferencing because of social distancing. But these precautions have exacerbated an already present mental health issue. Since the pandemic, anxiety and depression in young adults have increased from 10% to 40%.
ASEZ Students Tackle the Issue of Mental Health
As a result, ASEZ at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) hosted a Mental Health Forum on April 21, 2021. They partnered with ASEZ students from Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University. Forum panelists included Dr. Thomas C. Katsouleas, President of UCONN; Dr. Tina Roman, General Pediatrician, and UCONN Medical School Preceptor; and Dr. Paul Hoffman, Director of Mental Health and Counseling at Yale University.
Together, they joined forces to raise awareness about this nationwide issue. Around 80 participants sat in on the discussion. Forum panelists spoke about having an open conversation about mental health. Additionally, they offered ways to combat it among university students as part of the ASEZ Cheer Up Campaign.
One question was why campaigns like the Cheer Up campaign are essential for young adults to do. Dr. Katsolueas responded, “Let me just say how impressed I am with what ASEZ has taken on and the impact and the difference that it’s making with its Cheer Up Campaign. It’s so important because the number of students and adults in general who are experiencing mental health conditions is growing at a rapid rate. It’s great to see ASEZ responding to that.”
Dr. Katsolueas went on to say, “Also, it’s really important for a University President or a University to confront this issue because we are in the business of human development and workforce development. We cannot fulfill that mission if students are not healthy, including mental health. If you’re not well, you can’t learn, you can’t be creative, you can’t reach your fullest potential which is what we are all about. I want to thank ASEZ for bringing light to this very important issue.”
Students Take the Lead in Addressing Mental Health Challenges Among Their Peers
Kayla Hardin, ASEZ club president at UCONN, expressed her gratitude for the chance to participate in the forum and why she thought it was important for her classmates. “Through this forum we hope that students can understand the importance of mental health and feel more comfortable discussing the topic. Also, we think it’s important for all students to understand how to get access to the proper help and care they need,” said Kayla.
Raising awareness about an issue is a necessary step to help resolve it. “When we think about organizations and what they can do, I think what we’re doing today is incredibly important,” Dr. Hoffman said. “I’ve really been impressed by the level of support that college students are willing to give to each other and the level of presence that people are willing to give each other. It’s so important right now that students be kind to each other and listen to each other.”
In the end, the panelists made suggestions on activities ASEZ students could do to improve mental health. Dr. Roman stated, “Doing this panel discussion is obviously one major thing you can do; continue talking about it and raising awareness and trying to continue to destigmatize mental health concerns.” ASEZ makes effort for a bright future for all people. Volunteers will continue to host forums to raise awareness about mental health. The role of college students is crucial because they’re the agents of change.
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