College is full of life changes – both exciting and stressful – that can affect students’ mental health. When a global pandemic is added to the mix, paying attention to our own mental health, and helping those around us, is even more important. Here are five recommendations for staying grounded in the midst of challenging times.

Remember that you’re not alone

Anxiety and depression are the two most common issues faced by college students across the nation. Last year, a national survey found that 24 percent of students nationwide sought professional help for anxiety, and 20 percent were diagnosed or treated for depression. For some students, these conditions are long-term concerns. For others they’re situational, meaning they’re related to a specific event or stressor. If you’re feeling distress, you’re not alone – and you’re normal.

You can ask for help

Some people grow up in families or communities where mental health isn’t discussed. It can feel intimidating to reach out to a counselor or psychiatrist for the first time – but doing so can be incredibly helpful. Bianca Esquivel ’19, a Psychology and English major who plans a career in social work, says she grew up thinking that her own struggles with anxiety and depression were simply a nuisance to deal with privately.

Counseling Resources for Current Students

  • Remote counseling services with a St. Edward’s counselor: 512-448-8538 during business hours
  • 24/7 Optum Emotional Support Line: 866-342-6892
  • Remote services through the university’s partnership with United Health

“When I came to St. Edward's, I realized that's a really closed-minded way to look at it,” she says. “Mental health concerns affect everyone. They don’t discriminate based on your race, class or gender, even though that can influence them, of course. And people at St. Edward’s were so open and would share in class, ‘Oh yeah, I have this diagnosis.’ Everyone had a good, positive attitude towards getting therapy.” Esquivel started going to therapy at the Health and Counseling Center and says the sessions changed her life and helped her manage her anxiety. She went on to intern with NAMI Central Texas, a nonprofit that offers free support groups and classes about mental health, and started a Latinx support group on campus.

“I developed an open mind about counseling, and I want to make sure others feel that way too, and that we eliminate the stigma,” she says. Progress is made as society recognizes that mental health is just as important as physical health.

Seek counseling online

Current events are impacting everyone’s wellbeing, and mental-health counseling is even more important during these stressful times. When you ask for help, you still have resources at St. Edward’s. The Health and Counseling Center continues to offer virtual visits for students who want to schedule counseling appointments. Find out more about the options we’re providing for counseling, telemedicine, an emotional support help line and other resources offered through the Student Assistance Program.

Use technology to close the distance

College mental health counselors often encourage students to limit their social media use to reduce feelings of self-comparison. It’s still a good idea to avoid obsessively checking your accounts, just as it can be useful to limit the daily amount of time you spend reading news. But when social distancing is the norm, technology can facilitate much-needed connection. Reach out to friends and family via phone, FaceTime, Duo or Skype. Email your neighbors to see if anyone needs help. Take advantage of the many workouts, concerts and virtual dance parties that are happening online. If there’s an upside to this time of being sequestered, it’s that the internet connects us in ways that, decades ago, we could only imagine.

Remember what you can control

With so many world events that are outside our control, it’s important to manage the things that we do influence. Take care of your physical health by exercising, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, getting some fresh air and sunshine (while maintaining social distance) and giving yourself the best opportunity to get enough sleep. Consider adding a short meditation practice to your routine: 10 minutes of sitting and focusing on your breath can help you stay calm throughout the day. Be gentle with yourself and those around you, and ask for what you need from family and friends. We’re all in this together.