After more than a month of online classes, a recent Student Government Association survey found that 58% of Elon University student respondents indicated their mental health was a concern during the online period.
Elon classes will continue virtually for the rest of the semester in response to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. According to Jon Dooley, vice president of student life, classes are expected to resume in the fall.
The survey gauged students' thoughts and feelings about the remainder of the semester being conducted online. There were specific parts asking about students’ preparedness for online classes, their well-being and the administration’s response to the pandemic.
The survey was sent to the student body via email from SGA Executive President Robert Miley on March 24. When SGA submitted the survey to Dooley with the results, there were 318 total responses. More than 180 respondents who checked off mental health when asked “what are your biggest concerns for the rest of the semester?”
SGA Executive Secretary Sydney Hallisey, along with the rest of the executive council, spent a whole day reading the survey responses.
“It made me pretty emotional,” Hallisey said. “As a student representative, I was so appreciative of students’ candor and openness in sharing how they were truly feeling … We really are all feeling the same way, and it was hard to see that people are struggling so much being away from campus, but there is solace in knowing we are all in this together.”
The survey results also show students are having difficulties or lack knowledge on how to access Counseling Services and other resources.
Counseling Services is not currently offering virtual counseling sessions or meeting with students in-person. Counselors are not allowed to give online counseling sessions to students outside of North Carolina unless trained to. As a starting point, all of the counseling staff has completed a 12.5 hour training provided by PESI, a non-profit organization that creates continuing education for behavioral health workers. This training gives the counseling staff the groundwork for understanding the ins and outs of tele-counseling.
Counseling Services did reach out to students who were seeing a counselor regularly when the online classes began. Counselors informed them of online resources and tried to connect them to any consultants local to them.
Mark Eades, a counselor and group coordinator, said one of the best ways for a person to maintain good mental health is to make the most out of their surroundings.
“The more you can push yourself to find the things that you can do, rather than focus on the things that you can’t, is probably going to be something you want to keep with you as we move through this,” Eades said.
Bilal Ghandour, assistant professor of psychology and licensed clinical psychologist, believes one of the steps towards a healthy mindset is to use proper terms when describing social distancing.
“I think social distancing is a really inappropriate use of terms to describe what we have to do,” Ghandour said. “We need to use physical distancing because literally that’s what it is. Because you’re already isolated as a person, and social distancing allows you to feel further and dislocated from whatever structure you have.”
Both SGA and Counseling Services are continuing to find ways to assist the students during this time.
“I can’t say whether the majority of students are in a good or bad place, but I can say that this is a very unique, difficult experience we are all sharing, and nothing about this is easy no matter how your situation looks,” Hallisey said. “There is no single solution for students’ mental health concerns, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but as the circumstances change day by day, we can brainstorm and implement new strategies.”
Resources, such as virtual workshops on how to maintain a better sleep schedule, mindful yoga sessions or a list or apps or resources on mental health, are all available on Counseling Services’ website.
Due to social distancing recommendations, counseling services will not be providing in-person appointments. The office remains open and available by phone only at 336-278-7280 Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m, and is closed 1-2 p.m.