Social distancing could worsen mental illness among students

News outlets and health officials have been acknowledging anxieties formed due to current self-isolation, but haven’t considered those who are already diagnosed with mental illness. Not enough is being done to ensure the mental stability of those predisposed to anxiety attacks and depression. 

People with a diagnosed anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder sometimes rely on mental stimulation and daily routines as coping mechanisms. As students, we have gotten used to our repetitive school schedules, but now are suddenly being thrown out of the loop and forced to adjust to quarantine and social distancing. 

Disruption in a regimen can lead to altered sleep schedules, and therefore a butchered routine. A study published in June 2018 by Dr. Laura M. Lyall from the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that “circadian disruption is reliably associated with various adverse mental health and well-being outcomes, including major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.” A daily routine and set sleep schedule are directly related to stable mental health. 

There are many sources for people feeling alone and unhealthy to turn to, like the USF Counseling Center. During this pandemic, students can still receive counseling through Therapy Assisted Online (TAO) directly through the Counseling Center’s website. TAO was first used as an extension of the services provided by the Counseling Center, but now encompasses every aspect of the facility. Some privacy concerns may follow this video chat session, since many students have family or roommates that could be listening in the area. 

On the other hand, the Counseling Center, like peer academic institutions nationwide, might not have enough staff for such an outbreak in mental health issues. The average ratio of counselors to college students in the United States is 1 to 1,600, according to the International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS). 

USF is not exempt from this shortage of counselors, having 35 full-time staff members as of right now, according to a March article from The Oracle. Divided by the approximately 45,000 students that attend the USF Tampa campus, that leaves only one counselor for every group of 1,286 students.

The IACS says that low ratios can lead to longer wait times for students to receive a meeting, a lack of quality in counseling, increased liability risk and lowered academic support for students.

While students wait for better counseling services, clinical psychologist Mariana Plata, from Psychology Today, published an article in October 2018 that gave tips on how to incorporate routines into daily life. These tips consist of continuing things you do daily despite your plans (like a morning coffee or an hour set aside to read a book) and connecting socially with the people you have around you (whoever you are being quarantined with). 

Plata also recommends a focus on career goals. For students, that is our academic careers. Putting a lot of your focus on one big project for school and making a point of working on it a little bit every day may aid in easing you into this new temporary lifestyle. 

Sometimes the small things, like a daily routine, are not enough. If you are in a situation in which you need immediate help and have no one to assist you, there are resource hotlines that you can call or text below. 

Teegan Oshins is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

National Eating Disorders Help Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453