Most all of us have experienced some form of angst or even depression over the past year. With all of the closures due to COVID-19, we’ve been forced to stop meeting face-to-face, to relegate ourselves to eating at home, not going out for entertainment, and some people have lost connections with one another. We’ve learned to adapt to working from home, remote learning, and figuring out ways to get through these “unprecedented times” as best we can.
But, I can’t help but think what impact this has had on our young adults. The ones in college…just starting jobs….trying to figure out how to be on their own apart from the security of their parents. I really think they are the ones who are probably the most negatively affected by all of this. Consider the college senior who has worked so hard to graduate, only to have their graduation ceremonies cancelled. That’s a pretty big let down. What about the college freshman who has no way to connect and meet people because all of the activities on campus have been shut down? Because there were no social functions allowing them to meet and interact with others, think how much more difficult it has been for them to adjust to life away from home.
I recently read a statistic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said 63% of 18-24 year-olds reported feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression, with 25% admitting to using substances to help deal with that stress and 25% admitting to having suicidal thoughts. Those percentages are pretty sobering.
Thankfully, Alice Kim, Meagan Jenkins, and Tyler Huang from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recognized the need for counseling services on their campus due to the isolation we’ve all been experiencing. With the help of Dr. Angela Stowe, the Director of the Student Counseling Services, the three students developed the B Well app which is available to all students and faculty at UAB. The app helps users find ways to relax and relieve stress. It offers self-help tools and resources as well as a personalized self-care plan. It also makes finding available mental health services much easier.
Another college-student-created-app was developed by Sanat Mohaptra, a Darmouth graduate. Mohaptra realized that many students around him struggled with mental health issues but were hesitant to talk openly about it. Considering their need to connect with someone without feeling judged, Sanat developed the app, Unmasked. Unmasked gives students the ability to seek professional help in a private setting without the discomfort of seeing that person face-to-face. This app is currently available on 45 college campuses with plans to expand to more.
I think what I found truly fascinating about both of these apps is that they were created by college students, for college students. Students who saw a need, felt a desire to help, and found a way to do it. And that is something a college education just can’t buy.