University Counseling Center adopts remote services, students face mental health challenges of social distancing

Trae Mitchell, Staff Writer

Stacy Herring, a freshman nutritional science major, started using the University Counseling Center’s services in October. Back then, she often found difficulty scheduling an appointment and said that she didn’t get substantial take-aways from her sessions. 

Earlier this month, the center announced that it would provide remote services for Morgan students, but Herring doubts the implementation will improve effectiveness.  

“The counselor I had was not very personable face-to-face,” she said. “Adding the virtual layer will not help.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have cited social distancing as the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to their site, social distancing entails keeping a distance of six feet from others, abstaining from group gatherings, and avoiding crowds.   

In response to the nation’s battle with the pandemic, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay at home order. But while observing social distancing, Morgan students have found themselves using remote learning platforms. However, this effort to protect physical health has had adverse effects on students’ mental health. 

According to the counseling center’s website, social distancing may irritate underlying mental health issues and worsen symptoms. According to Raven Evans, a psychologist based in North Carolina, the adoption of social distancing has left many mental health professionals scrambling.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Evans said. “Research is limited in this specific area so we’re pulling from what we know about other areas such as managing stress and coping.”

To give students information on emotional wellness, the counseling center has published tips on the university’s website. In addition to remote counseling services, students who are new clients have been offered a one-time consultation and referral. 

In the meantime, some students have started coming up with their own strategies to combat mental health obstacles.     

Senior Performance Major Kendra Speight has been struggling with depression and anxiety. She said she was accustomed to managing it by herself, but now she has to develop new strategies.

“I can’t just go see a friend or take myself out,” she said.

However, through their agency, students have begun to adopt means to keep their mental health afloat. Many students have encouraged themselves and others to stay connected with their friends and family and to stay focused on their goals. 

Business Major Ashley Jones advised her peers to invest in themselves during this time by creating a schedule, doing hobbies they enjoy, meditating and keeping in touch with friends.

“Take it day by day,” Jones said. 

A representative from the Counseling Center could not be reached for comment.