Updated: Nov 17, 2020
The fall 2020 semester is a completely different semester that has never been experienced before. Students are doing many classes virtually, clubs and organizations hold meetings over Zoom and students on campus must wear a mask and stay six feet apart at all times.
While many college students deal with mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety, during the school year, such issues are often even more heightened due to the pandemic.
Not only do students have to worry about their grades and classes, but they also now must worry about following COVID guidelines and whether they have been exposed to the virus or not.
A relatively new club at Salisbury University, Mental Health Advocates, is working to help students manage their mental health both now and in college in general.
“The purpose of the club is to create a safe space for students at SU and even members of the community who want to join, so that they have people to come to, people who they know that they can confide in … and it won’t get out because we do have nondisclosure agreements. On top of that, it’s not just a safe space. We give tactics, do activities …” said JaNya Odom, psychology major and the Mental Health Advocates president.
While they are not counselors, the leaders and members of the Mental Health Advocates Club use their own personal experiences, mental health background and outside resources, like guest speakers, to help serve student needs.
“In one of the meetings they were recommending us to download some apps such as
Gratitude … and things of that nature just to help us during our free time if we are ever struggling with our mental health. They also suggested that we can put things out in our group chat on GroupMe if we ever need encouragement or support. They also like to send out little encouraging messages,” said senior Micaela Shirley, a member of the club.
In the previous semester, the club held multiple events such as a meditation session, where they focused on breathing techniques, yoga, writing and journaling activities and more.
While the pandemic makes it more challenging to hold such events, the MHA will still be offering events to students, but usually they will be held virtually.
“The plan for moving forward this year is of course to do it over Zoom, but I do plan to [have] anyone who lives close to me will meet once a week if they can … and do physical activities, because it’s not just mental and emotional work that we have to do, there are physical things that we need to do too,” said Odom.
Even if unable to participate in the events that MHA will be offering, Odom has several tips and coping skills that she recommends students use if feeling anxious, depressed and/or overwhelmed.
“My biggest one [tip] would be to take a break when it’s necessary … so just as simple as taking like five minutes in between studying or doing homework to just focus on breathing or to just evaluate your thoughts,” said Odom.
Odom also suggests getting outside or using a therapy technique to help you reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
“Take five minutes to go for a walk, honestly that’s the biggest tip I could ever give. When you’re like sitting in one place for too long or anything like that, just take five minutes to go take a walk. Go step outside, breathe, [use a technique,] it’s called grounding. So it’s like [you name] five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you smell, two things you taste and then one thing you can physical feel,” Odom said.
Odom also recognizes that everyone’s mental health is different and that what may work for one person may not work for another. Therefore, she recommends figuring out what works best for you.
“Just figure out in between all the things that we do, what tailors to you, to help you take care of yourself, because I would like to give [out] all the things that I know, but that’s not always going to work.”
Like Odom, Shirley has her own methods and tips for keeping her mental health in check, especially during the pandemic. Her approach focuses on keeping a positive mindset.
“I would say try to keep an open mind [and] try to stay positive as much as you can. Of course, given the circumstances that we are under that can be difficult from time to time because everything is up in the air and uncertain at this point. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay positive for the future,” Shirley said.
Taking care of your mental health is important now more than ever, and joining Mental Health Advocates is a great step towards doing so. If you or someone you know is really struggling, do not be afraid to reach out to a member in the community that you trust.
By LAURA AMRHEIN
Featured image: Airanna Musser