Today, I am saddened, disheartened and quite frankly, I am disgusted. I sit here writing this as I shake with anger and a broken heart over the rapidly declining mental health of the student body here at Gannon.
As I walk through campus, I can see it. In students’ eyes. While half of our faces are covered with masks, I can see eyes that are defeated.
We have no breaks and harsh restrictions. Students are burned out, more and more seek help every day, and we are still forced to continue the semester as if nothing is wrong, as if we are not quite literally breaking. College and life are hard enough, but this academic year they have been made even harder. In my mind it begs the question, is this all worth it?
As I pondered this question today, my answer is n o, it is not worth it. We cannot keep going on as we have been. Lives are at stake.
We cannot be expected to go on as normal when people are losing their will to live. Mental and emotional well- being is plummeting. How can we be expected to push through a semester with no breaks while the world is crashing around us, when our worlds are crashing down within us?
If we as a university carry on as we have been, I will be disheartened and disgusted. The way we have been acting, any student could be lost at an y moment.
Human beings are social creatures. Isolation breeds depression. We are NOT meant to live this way. It makes me sick that instead of checking up on students’ mental health and well-being, some are more interested in checking up on social gatheri ngs.
Sometimes, it feels that the university would care more if I threw a party than if I relayed that my mental health was suffering.
How about instead of actively patrolling and seeking out ways to punish students who are just trying to live normal l ives under impossible circumstances, we actively seek out ways to support students? And no, posts on Instagram, emails or messages via the LiveSafe app are not enough.
I will not stand by silently on this matter any longer. I am infuriated. Even despite t he amount of financial aid I was given, I find it difficult on a moral level to pay any amount of money to live on a campus where mental health is either blatantly disregarded or pretended to be cared about under the guise of shallow words and messages. Th ese messages mean nothing unless they are backed up with concrete plans of action and the active prioritization of mental health.
Larger schools such as the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State have designated mental health days, where no classes take place and students are given the chance to relax and recuperate. Why can’t a smaller school like Gannon implement the same thing, at the very least? Is even one day a month worth the cost of mentally unwell students?
None of this is worth the cost of men tally unwell students. Young adult suicide rates are increasing dramatically. When almost every aspect of “ normal life” is taken from us, we need support, not criticism or punishment.
Multiple articles have been written for The Gannon Knight about the ra ging mental health pandemic that exists amid college students today. Our most recent Instagram post acknowledges that our awareness as a staff of student voices has gotten hundreds more likes than our other posts usually get (at the time this post was written).
Students are calling for help.
We are doing the best we can under unimaginable circumstances. But we need help. I don’t want to write another article calling for this same exact thing. I alone have written seven articles this academic year in relation to these issues.
I have watched my peers have mental breakdowns over fines they simply do not have the money to pay. I have watched my peers regress into depression because social opportunities are taken away from them. I have watched my peers try and rea ch out for help, but their needs are not met. I have watched the Counseling Center staff members give every ounce of effort they have to meet the needs of their students. I have seen them show a tremendous amount of care and concern.
The mental health resources we do have on campus are amazing. Those who work at the Counseling Center care so deeply for our student body. But we need more resources. We need more counselors. We can’t have any more students feel that they are not being heard. It is detrimental.
As a uni versity, we need to be united now more than ever. It cannot feel like it is students versus the university we all attend. We are one Gannon community. We are a community made of individuals. And we need to be there for each other. We ALL need to feel that our voices are heard. Gannon community, I am here for you. I stand with you. And I hear you. And I promise to always use my platform to bring volume to your voices, to the best of my ability.
We cannot keep carrying on as “ normal.” The fact of the matter is, this is NOT normal. We cannot lose more classmates, peers, teammates, family members or friends.