With the return of students to campus, the counseling center at Drake University is helping students manage their mental health during a time of heightened stress and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other stressors.
“I think students are really overwhelmed and feeling fatigued from the pandemic,” said Danielle Green, director of Drake University’s counseling center. “A lot of students have shared they feel exhausted from being back around people on a regular basis. Many of us have also experienced a trauma associated with the pandemic, so folks are feeling extremely overwhelmed right now.”
Drake senior Kamila Sadko said she experienced personal trauma caused by COVID-19 last year.
“I had COVID last June, so my lungs are damaged and I am at a greater risk of getting it,” Sadko said.
Sadko said she thought she would come back to campus for her last year and things would be relatively normal, but the reality has not been what she expected.
“It’s been a little stressful, especially with students and some people who don’t take it as seriously as they could,” Sadko said. “I wouldn’t mind going back online if it stays the way it’s going, [with] cases continuing to rise.”
Senior and graphic design major Kevin Sandifer said he feels secure in the steps Drake has put in place to combat COVID-19.
“I’m living alone and everybody’s masked up, for the most part,” Sandifer said. “I’m seeing the numbers of students getting their vaccines and stuff, and the percentage was pretty high, so I’d say mentally I’m pretty comfortable with coming back to Drake and pursuing my studies.”
Despite their different viewpoints on how COVID-19 is being handled by the Drake community, Sadko and Sandifer agreed that mental health deserves to be taken seriously now more than ever.
“I think it is a pretty big deal,” Sandifer said. “If you can’t focus mentally on your game, you’re not going to do your best, you’re not going to be at your peak, you’re not going to do what you need to get done.”
Sadko said that the medical community and the United States as a whole need to do a better job of taking mental health seriously.
“I feel like we as a country don’t really take it as seriously as other medical conditions,” Sadko said. “There’s a lot of people that struggle to get diagnosed, especially women and minorities, because they are seen as overreacting.”
In order for students to address their mental health concerns, Green said, they first need to acknowledge that their mental health is being impacted.
“I think students try to ignore that they’re struggling and that makes it worse,” Green said.
Green said students would already feel much better if they prioritized self-care, such as journaling, eating and drinking enough and getting plenty of sleep. Another way for students to manage their mental health is to take advantage of Drake’s mental health resources.
“Drake has started to create opportunities for Drake students to get in touch with counseling, have mental health days and also create spaces for people to connect on campus,” Green said. “Drake is currently working on reducing the expectation around being busy and creating a focus on balance and wellness which is something the university didn’t address before.”
The counseling center is located at 3116 Carpenter Ave. Students can make an in-person or virtual appointment with the counseling center by completing a digital form on the center’s page on the Drake University website or by calling 515-271-3864.