The last few weeks have been filled with grief and disparity within the KU community following the death of a student in Lewis Hall. During this time, KU failed to support students’ mental health.
It comes as no surprise that mental health concerns are prevalent on college campuses. The consequences of the pandemic, pressure to succeed in school, financial stress, and uncertainty about what life path to follow all contribute to the mental health crisis on college campuses.
Anna Burns, a third-year student studying interdisciplinary computing, believes the conversation regarding mental health on campus is non-existent.
“I’ve never talked about mental health in a college class,” Burns said. “I really think it needs to be talked about, though, especially when it comes to mental health, demanding schoolwork, and living on your own, and dealing with all the stuff that comes with that.”
While KU encouraged its students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with incentives like dining gift cards and free tuition, the university took no steps toward decreasing COVID-19 spread on campus via a vaccine mandate for its students. Chancellor Douglas Girod recently announced KU would require all employees to submit proof they are fully vaccinated, but not the campus community in its entirety.
The absence of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students can evoke nervousness among students and faculty, making it difficult for everyone to focus on their well-being and academics. If KU wanted to express any concern towards its students, it would implement a vaccine mandate for both students and faculty.
Burns also feels that the pandemic affected her and many others at crucial times in their lives.
“Leaving school early freshman year and staying at home for months was damaging, in that, I would always think about what I could be doing/could have done during that time,” Burns said. “The next school year at KU was very difficult as well, with online classes and not feeling safe to see many people, as well as not having spring or fall break.”
Even worse, there is a deficit of mental health services in universities across the country. College counseling centers faced overloads prior to the pandemic, but because of this unprecedented crisis, it is affecting college students’ mental well-being even more.
KU, as well as many other universities across the country, also experienced budget scarceness after shifting to remote education, diminishing their level of concentration on improving mental health services on campus. It is essential that KU become more proactive in providing students with the necessary resources for crisis prevention and mental health education. KU needs to show students it cares.
Burns said KU class policies should put mental health above homework to encourage the conversation surrounding mental health.
“Being open about health and willing to give breaks to students, as we are people at the end of the day, would be a great way to incorporate mental health into our everyday lives,” Burns said.