Campus culture changes as students accommodate mental health concerns

Miles Potje

As the Augustana community adapts to the changes brought upon by COVID-19 regulations, the campus community has shifted from a social culture to one based around mental health awareness. Since on campus students are not permitted to participate in large social gatherings, students are required to change their routines and ultimately uproot their previously established college lifestyles.
According to Jarod Kovach, senior, students are required to spend more time alone, “people that have never struggled with mental health before are struggling with it now.” Kovach highlighted that these students simply “don’t know what to do.”
Kovach, active member and co-mental health chair for the Delta Omega Nu Fraternity, considers himself a mental health activist and a “stigma debunker” on campus. He finds it important to inform oneself on the severity of mental health concerns and to educate others.
Augustana College provides students with in-person counseling at any time.
“Students also had access to support groups like NAMI, as well as the wellness workshops that were put on by counseling services and student success services,” sophomore Anna Misener said.
Misener briefly mentions another key source on campus. “Before COVID-19, students had access to counseling services on campus and appointments with
Farrah Roberts, Director of Student Well-Being and Resiliency,” Misener said.
Though these services have proven useful to students, some have found trouble with the way these sources function. “The only complaint that I had with the system was how busy they were,” Kovach said.
Rowan Davis, a sophomore on campus, holds a much different perspective. “Mental health resources on campus were almost completely inadequate before the pandemic,” Davis said. “I don’t have any first-hand experience, but several people close to me have said that there were simply not enough therapists available last year.”
The 2020-2021 school year has proven more successful in providing students with mental health services, primarily due to the vast amount of online resources now available to students.
According to Farrah Roberts, administration is getting increasingly used to this new platform, even implementing a “Students Care” app to be utilized at all hours of the day.
“Counseling services have also tried to come up with engaging online modules,” Roberts said. It is difficult for Grey Matters and NAMI to hold normal programming in order to better support students according to Roberts.
Augustana students and staff are continuously working to break the stigma around mental health, despite recent changes in the way they must do so. These efforts range from simple acts of kindness to the active concern for those who may be feeling depressed or suicidal.
“I always try to check up on them and offer support in any way I can,” Davis said. Though he is not involved in any mental health organizations on campus, he feels fully equipped to offer support to anyone who needs it.
All students and staff members can do at the moment is put forth their best effort in the future in order to further, as Roberts said, break the stigma surrounding mental health at Augustana.