Mental health advocates and researchers across the United States are issuing ongoing warnings over concerns for youth mental health and wellbeing emphasizing that even once COVID-19 is behind us, students will continue to need support. A recent survey by nonprofit arm of Chegg, a textbook rental and technology company, surveyed early 17,000 undergraduates across 21 countries found that in the United States, 91% of university students said that their stress and anxiety had increased during the pandemic. However, 30% said that they had sought out mental health support.
Suicide rates among young adults increased from 2020- present
Prior to the pandemic, suicide rates were the second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 24 in 2019 and increased by 50% between 2007-2017. Since COVID-local officials across the country have been reporting more youth suicides and that number has only increased among minority groups and those on the LGBTQI spectrum who have had to move back in with family potentially triggering historical trauma associated with depression and post-traumatic stress.
A recent report by Fair Health found that health insurance claims for U.S. teenager roughly doubled early in COVID-19 over the same period in 2019. The report, released this month, analyzed more than 32 billion private healthcare claims filed on behalf of people aged 0 to 22 from January to November 2020. The study found that health insurance claims for patients aged 13 to 18, “skyrocketed 97.0% in March and 103.5% in April 2020… Mental health claims remained at least 19% higher in 2020 than in 2019.”
The increased need for mental health support has been more profound for young people that have been susceptible to school closures, distance learning, inability to interact closely with friends, stress, and loneliness, the report found. As the authors wrote, "The findings in this report have implications for all those responsible for the care of young people, including providers, parents, educators, and policy makers" the report said. "Fair Health hopes that these findings will also be starting points for further research in the field of pediatric mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic."
It's statistics like this that have made some states like Kentucky channel federal and state funding to support and address mental health within higher education.
Mental health support is needed now
With ongoing vaccine rollout happening across the country, institutions will have to evaluate their student mental health support systems to address the residual impacts COVID-19 has had on youth mental health. Institutions can best serve their students during this time with Symplicity Advocate. University students deserve a campus dedicated to their wellbeing and a simple, user-friendly way to report any issue they fear may threaten their ability to thrive. Advocate’s capabilities lessen some of the stress students might already be facing and enable them to easily voice and manage their concerns through cross-campus collaboration among faculty and staff.
This includes seeing which staff member is working with which student, setting up virtual counseling sessions, managing workflow, and providing students with proactive tools to help them cope through this time and into 2021. During a time when the world is slowly returning to a “new normal,” students will need to have the support to effectively manage all that they’ve had to endure during this challenging time. Providing student wellbeing must be a top priority for all higher education institutions to ensure student success during and after the pandemic.