On campuses, 'corona blues' just keep getting worse
Students are back on college campuses following the Covid-19 pandemic, but many are complaining of lingering feelings of depression and helplessness, the so-called corona blues.
Universities are offering counseling to help students get back to normal psychologically.
Sahmyook University Student Counseling Center has been running an outreach program since May 9. A counseling booth was set up in a central location with peer counseling and Myers-Briggs Personality Type tests offered. Over 300 students participated in a span of three days.
“For students who feel depressed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but do not know how to get help, we lowered the psychological barrier to counseling and made it possible to experience relationships with other students,” said a spokesperson for the center.
According to the center, the number of requests for personal counseling by students rose sharply after Covid-19 hit Korea, from 1,094 in 2019 to 1,600 in 2020 and 1,800 in 2021. “Students who entered university since 2020 have only taken online classes so they don’t feel a sense of belonging at university,” said the spokesperson.
“Because students don’t have social networks, there are no places for them to find help when they feel emotionally troubled. Students without social networks tend to be much more vulnerable when they experience setbacks. So we need to find ways of reaching these students."
“I was surprised that so many students wanted counseling,” said Choi Yoo-jin, 22, who is active in the university’s peer counseling club. “There are many students who are not able to adjust to school life."
According to data compiled by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, in January 2020, there were 41,208 patients in their 20s with depression, which increased to 60,772 as of September 2021 -- the highest number among all age groups.
Perversely, the removal of social distancing restrictions and resumption of in-person classes has only heightened the psychological stress. “Since the removal of social distancing measures, the number of students complaining of depression, helplessness and anxiety has increased,” said Oh Eun-kyung, assistant professor of psychology at Konyang University’s Counseling Center. “Mainly, students complain of difficulties in adjusting to school life.”
“During the time of online classes, many students’ daily patterns were disrupted,” added Oh. “They would wake up late and stay up late since they could watch recordings of online classes whenever they wanted.”
The center manages high-risk students by assigning a trained “peer counselor.” After regular classes resumed, these peer counselors helped students return to normal school life, even in simple ways such as waking them up to get to classes, or reminding them of assignments due.
“For students who entered university during the pandemic, self-management and interpersonal competency development are the biggest tasks,” said Oh. “Online classes were problematic especially for students who are not able to self-manage, and now students are finding it hard to adjust to regular classes. We plan to continue programs with a focus on day-to-day recovery for students.”
A spokesperson for the Psychological Counseling Center at Duksung Women’s University agreed that the number of inquiries for counseling has increased since social distancing measures were lifted.
“We are planning a special mental health lecture and group counseling for all students,” a spokesperson for the center said. “When classes were online, students wanted to engage in activities offline, but when they are actually faced with offline situations, many introverted students find it hard to participate."
Keimyung University and Kyunghee University also conducted group counseling programs, with a record number of students signing up.
“The fact that students are seeking counseling is positive, but we need to pay more attention to students so they can adjust to school life better,” said Baek Jong-woo, professor of psychology at Kyunghee University’s College of Medicine.
BY SHIN HYE-YEON [email@example.com]