“a nationwide crisis of isolation and anxiety has fallen particularly hard on young people”
It’s no wonder that college enrollment is way down. Who would want to go to school in this environment?
Demand for college peer counselors is booming. But training only goes so far
As a first-year student at Boston College in fall 2020, Ella Snyder recalls feeling isolated and being anxious about the university’s new COVID-19 safety restrictions.
“I was very worried about how I would make friends while also having to social distance,” she says. “It was kind of like I was trying to figure out this impossible balance.”
Walking across campus, Snyder spotted a flier advertising Lean On Me, a peer support network that hosts online, confidential conversations with students who have received about 30 hours of initial training, including crisis protocols.
Snyder signed up, sent a text and started to chat with a peer. She says the conversation helped her process her anxiety.
“It was just really nice to have my opinion validated,” she explains. “I felt like a bad person for having questions about the COVID concerns, because obviously you want to respect the pandemic and not spread the virus but also it takes a toll on your own mental health, too.”
During the pandemic, a nationwide crisis of isolation and anxiety has fallen particularly hard on young people – and more and more, those young people are turning to each other for help. In a new national survey, nearly half of college students said pandemic disruptions have made them more likely to seek out peer counseling, as Snyder did, including 20% who said it has made them “much more likely.”
Researchers with the Mary Christie Institute and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation surveyed more than 2,000 college students last fall and found two-thirds said they’ve faced a mental health challenge in the past year. One in five has already received peer counseling.
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