Webinar Recap by a Student: The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in COVID

by Coura Fall | March 30, 2021
Webinar Recap by a Student: The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in COVID

Webinar Recap by a Student: The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in COVID

My name is Coura Fall, I’m a junior at American University, and I had the privilege of participating in last week's Well-Being webinar to talk about mental health awareness as a student during COVID. With four other students and my mentor, Dr. Traci Callandrillo, we talked about how students are managing the pandemic, handling unplanned adjustments, and the importance of mental health awareness and self-care in the midst of multiple pandemics from COVID-19 to racial injustice.

Students Sticking Together: The Best Tool in Our Mental Health Awareness Arsenal

I loved this discussion because it gave me the opportunity to participate in something that I haven’t done in quite some time: engage with other students. At a time like this, where we are so isolated from one another and struggling to stay connected to a world that feels long gone, it was not only refreshing, but therapeutic to have an honest conversation about the toll this pandemic has taken on all of us.

It’s easy to retract and feel alone in all of this. I think this is because the challenges we have faced as part of this pandemic are unique to us. I know for me, my struggles with feeling motivated and committed to things has been particularly hard.

Talking to other students, however, and realizing that we are all encountering the same mental health awareness difficulties in our own ways, despite our different lived experiences, has helped me feel a lot better about them. It also allowed me to accept that my reactions are just a product of a really tough circumstance.

Learning From Each Other

What I have taken away from this mental health awareness discussion with other students is that there needs to be more spaces for students to tell their stories while we are in this pandemic, as well as afterwards. The more solidarity we can create with each other, we can not only replicate the connection we have been longing for, but also have dialogues that can promote deeper understandings about student wellness that can translate out of this pandemic, too.

What we learn about each other now–such as what helps us learn best, what we want in our relationships with our schools and faculty, and what we do to nurture ourselves–can be stepping stones to promote healthier groups of students in the future.

We all know the discouraging statistics about college students' mental health. For example, the American Psychological Association reports that 42% of college students have anxiety, which is just one of the concerns that college counseling centers have seen rise in the past year.

With this said, this mental health awareness discussion may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create tangible improvements for those in higher ed. This includes us students, as well as college faculty and staff. The solidarity and honesty we cultivate now can serve as real guidance for higher ed professionals in the future.

Thinking of Success as Subjective

It’s in these discussions that I think we can create the new standards of success in college. Rather than the focus being on how many internships a student has or how many leadership positions a student has been able to accumulate over her/his college career, maybe we should pay attention to more long-lasting markers of accomplishment.

These can include the ability to put emotional and mental well-being first. It can also mean cultivating healthy relationships. In addition, it can mean coming to a healthy understanding of the consequences of a lack of mental health awareness. I think that it's these things that create truly accomplished people.

Vulnerability is Anything but Weak

The last topic I want to discuss is the power of vulnerability. Something I’m deeply proud of as a result of the webinar is how we wore our challenges proudly. Also, each of us, as students, seem to use our challenges as springboards for growth. Being vulnerable is difficult, especially when other people are watching and listening.

However, I think that owning that we aren’t perfect, or aren’t always okay, is a source of strength. This is something that I hope faculty and staff notice when considering the impact that they have on students. I believe that if we continue to normalize mental health awareness and the reality of struggling, we can produce a more empathetic society.

Creating spaces for students to be honest, but also supported in that honesty, can catalyze increased attention to mental health. This can also be the beginning of more impactful intervention of higher ed professionals assisting more in this arena.

Being a part of this mental health awareness webinar was the highlight of my semester. I feel hopeful about how these challenges have helped us become kinder, more sympathetic and certainly more self-aware.

I applaud Signal Vine for creating an environment for these tough, but necessary conversations. There’s nothing more soothing than to be understood. Thus, I believe that the more space we allow for people to be understood, we'll all be better off.

Learn more

Be sure to listen to the Well-being: A Student's Perspective webinar from last week. Also, be sure to check out the recap of our 2020 free communication webinars.

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