College students feeling impact of pandemic; Local advocate uses her struggles to help others

The Battle Within

Local 4 News is taking time this week to highlight the mental health struggles a lot of people face, and experts say the pandemic is taking a toll on student’s mental health 

A recent study by the mental health initiative active minds shows 74% of high school students have felt anxious or stressed due to the pandemic. For college students, that number rises to 89%. 

Mental health advocate Haley DeGreve is attempting to shift the conversation. 

“It seems like mental illness is the only illness that we blame the person for, and we blame ourselves for it too,” she said.  

DeGreve is a recent graduate from Augustana College who said she struggled with her mental health while in school. 

“I had always struggled with depression and anxiety, but I never knew it until those college stressors were on top of everything else that was going on,” she said. 

DeGreve is not alone. Active Minds reports nearly 40% of college students will deal with a serious mental health condition. COVID-19 is causing more students stress. 1 in 4 college students surveyed about the pandemic’s impact said they are feeling more depressed. Over half of those students said they are taking time to check in with others. 

Dr. Tiffany Stoner-Harris, a local and professor, said college students are feeling the impacts of the pandemic. 

“That brings on a whole other level of anxiety, in terms of the isolation, the lack of normalcy,” she said. “There’s such a difference in interaction, you know, when you are face to face with people,  there’s like a different energy.” 

These stressors are on top of the transitions they are already dealing with. 

“Just being away from home, being away from family. Decision-making for the first time. being solely responsible for the day-to-day,” she said. 

She encourages students to use campus counseling for help, and says finding support is crucial in college, which is why DeGreve started a campaign to get people talking. 

“The Gray Matters Collective is a mental health group that started on Augustana’s campus in February 2019,” she said. 

DeGreve said more people now than ever are reaching out for help. 

“We have received way more messages, honestly since the pandemic started, because people just don’t know how to cope. We’re seeing a lot more students struggle with suicidal thoughts,” she said. 

This is pushing them to continue the conversation. 

“Suicide is the most preventable cause of death out there, and, I just don’t know why we aren’t doing more about it,” she said. 

To learn more about the Gray Matter Collective, click the link here. 

To learn more about Dr. Tiffany Stoner Harris, click the link here. 

For a list of local mental health services, visit the link here. 

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