The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis: Embry-Riddle is No Exception

Image licensed under Creative Commons.

By Mattysen Short, Correspondent 

Research shows that mental illness is on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic. Isolation, panic, and instability have all been factors in the recent nationwide increase in depression, anxiety, and even suicide. 

A Horizons survey conducted in November across all three Embry-Riddle campuses with 262 responses shows that Embry-Riddle is no exception to this national increase in mental illness. 

On overall mental wellbeing, Embry-Riddle survey respondents rated their mental health an average of 4.4 on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst their mental health has ever been and a 10 being the best it has ever been.

78 percent of respondents said that their mental health is worse now because of the pandemic while 13 percent said it was the same and only 9 percent said that their mental health has gotten better.

According to the survey, Embry-Riddle students suffer from a multitude of mental illnesses with 55 percent reporting they suffer from anxiety, 47 percent saying they suffer from depression, 26 percent saying they suffer from insomnia, and 18 percent saying they have ADHD. Smaller percentages of Embry-Riddle students also reported suffering from PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, eating disorders, Tourettes, and more.

Of those students that suffer from mental illnesses, 77 percent say that their symptoms are worse due to the pandemic, 17 percent reported that their symptoms are the same, and only 6 percent say that their symptoms have gotten better.

The survey asked students what possible solutions their mental health would benefit from and students jumped on the opportunity to offer solutions to administration. Of those suggested solutions, 67 percent of students said they would benefit from the reinstatement of a spring break, 53 percent said they would benefit from a pass/fail option, 53 percent said they would benefit from having one day off every other week, 49 percent said they would benefit from more places to hang-out with friends of campus, 40 percent said they would benefit from more in-person, school-hosted activities, and 22 percent said they would benefit from more in-person counseling options. 

Students also suggested adding more on-campus places to study and work with groups, additional study days, hosting open mental illness relief sessions, and moving to a fully in-person class model.

In an interview conducted with Embry-Riddle Prescott Chancellor Annette Karlsson on Nov. 24th, these suggested solutions were discussed. Chancellor Karlsson dismissed all suggestions regarding changes to the schedule because the schedule has been finalized. In regards to Spring Break in particular, Chancellor Karlsson said that it was taken off the table because until mid-November, all COVID cases at Embry-Riddle were “directly related to travel.” She explained a sort of domino effect, where one student would travel somewhere, contract COVID, and then spread it to their roommates and friends who would then spread it further. It is for this reason that spring break would be considered too great of a risk, especially in the context of rising cases state- and nation-wide.

Fortunately, Chancellor Karlsson said that administration is working on additional places to study on campus, saying that more collaborative places for the library are currently in the works. Chancellor Karlsson also said that they are working on finding more ways for students to hang-out in person and participate in in-person activities.

Where and How to Find Help

According to the survey, Embry-Riddle students are struggling at higher rates than normal. If you are facing mental health challenges, know that you are not alone and there are people that can help. 

Students that have university healthcare can access telehealth services free of charge through United Healthcare, which can be accessed via the student healthcare portal. 

Counseling services are offered on both in-person campuses, though they are currently operating remotely. Appointments can be made by calling (928) 777-3312 for the Prescott campus and (386) 226-6035 in Daytona. 

Support services can also be accessed through wellness centers on both campuses at (928) 777-6653 in Prescott and (386) 226-7919 in Daytona. 

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate help on campus, campus security is available 24/7 at (928) 777-3333 in Prescott and (386) 226-6480 in Daytona. However, if the situation is an emergency, call 911.

Other services include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or the Crisis Textline: text HOME to 741-741.

Take care of yourself Eagles and don’t forget to check in on your friends. Stay safe, find ways to decompress, and enjoy your winter break!