For years, students have called on the University to improve mental health resources at Hopkins. In light of the pandemic, for some, it has been a year of renewed struggles. For others, the pandemic has created entirely new mental health issues.
In an email to The News-Letter, Matthew Torres, director of the University’s Counseling Center, described some obstacles students are currently facing.
“Everyone is forced to deal with challenges related to the pandemic and its effects on college life,” he wrote. “It is important to think about the impact on students representing various identity characteristics.”
He clarified that these identity characteristics can include race, sexual orientation, family income or simply being in college.
According to Torres, the pandemic has served as an impetus to the University for the expansion of mental health support resources.
“We have become more adept at utilizing tools for providing remote services and have been able to develop services that meet the expressed needs of the students,” he wrote.
Before the pandemic, the University introduced services including SilverCloud, Thriving Campus and the Calm app. Despite these resources, Dmytro Nebesh, the vice president of Peabody Conservatory’s mental health advocacy club Peabuddies, noted that students do not always utilize these options.
“Before COVID-19, I had friends who, instead of trying to get help or anything, would just look for alcohol or drugs and drown their problems in that way,” he said.
Now, though, Nebesh feels that University support has improved.
“I have seen much more outreach, at least at Peabody Student Affairs, and all these other little small Instagram pages that constantly post about ways to help with mental health,” he said.
Earlier this year, the University implemented new, more accessible support options. These include an expanded selection of online drop-in groups for those seeking to mitigate social isolation, expanded Chat with a Counselor programming with specific times for Black, Latinx, LGBTQ and international students and TimelyMD for students across the United States.
Even with these changes, junior Kai'jeh Johnson suggested that the University establish informal mandatory mental health check-ins for students throughout the semester.
“The University should be more aware of the nonverbal signs of troubling mental health. For example, failing grades shouldn’t automatically be attributed to bad study habits or laziness,” he said. “Professors could get more involved in making sure their students are okay and doing more personal and frequent check-ups.”
Nebesh wondered what the University’s mental health resources will look like once the pandemic is over.
“There's a part of me that's worried that once we're all back, Hopkins might say, ‘Oh, that’s it; you don't need anything else,’” he said. “I just really hope that Hopkins continues to make sure to let students know that it's okay to take a break, it's okay to go see these [counselors], that this is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of — this is perfectly normal.”