Mental health on campus

Mental health on campus
Mental health on campus(KFYR-TV)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 10:12 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Many high school seniors dream of going to college, making friends, joining clubs, and cheering at football games - but that’s not quite how it looks this year. Instead, students are dealing with uncertainty and disappointment, which some say, they’re taking in stride.

Walking into freshman year, expectations were high.

“It’s definitely different than the ‘normal’ college experience that you hear about,” said Bismarck State College freshman, Fischer Ackerman.

Like many of us, the coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on college students.

“This is tough. And we’re seeing reports that, you know, the mental health stresses, you know, students asking for more mental health counseling or just someone to talk to," said North Dakota University System Chancellor, Mark Hagerott.

Things returning students found comfort in, like collaborative, in-person classes, are a thing of the past."Usually when we’re in class together, we’re all huddled up together and we’re, you know, hanging out and talking and, you know, giving each other feedback, " explained Bismarck State College junior, Elliot Hellman.

And the things new students were looking forward to, like beginning art classes for Ackerman, who is an art major - are drowned out by the pandemic.

"If cases continue to rise and we have to keep moving up levels, we’ll have to move online, and I don’t want to take studio classes online, " said Ackerman.

Isolation and visitor restrictions have the campus community feeling tired, lonesome, and fatigued.

But faculty and staff are doing their part to help the students during this difficult time, while considering students' safety and comfort.

“We have a full-time counselor here, and when students call to make an appointment, we will ask them ‘do you want to meet virtually, or do you want to meet face-to-face?’,” said Bismarck State College Dean of Students, Jay Meier.

Meeting with a counselor online has, until now, been an underutilized resource.

“In the few cases where tele-mental health was utilized by students, we found that they came back repeatedly and maybe more so than we even hoped. Because it was a positive experience for them,” said North Dakota University System Vice Chancellor of Academics and Student Affairs, Lisa Johnson. That positivity spreading throughout campus. Johnson said, “They’ve organized things like drive-by food pick-ups, drive-by ice cream socials, drive-by coffee.”

Higher education leaders say they’re impressed by how much the students are coming together to help each other.

“Even when students are quarantining, they’re looking at taking care of each other," said Meier.

Across the board, those on campus and beyond are echoing the sentiment that we are in this together.

Meier says he’s impressed with how the students have followed the safety protocols with little to no pushback.

But the students say it’s worth it to help keep everyone around them safe, get the virus under control, and return to normal college life.

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