The Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC) has transitioned to virtual counseling services to support students’ mental health through the ongoing pandemic.
Many Fresno State students say the pandemic has had a toll on their mental health.
Carlos Fuentes, a fourth-year criminology major, said that his anxiety has continued to affect him as social distancing continued for months on end.
Fuentes said that his daily habits began to go out of schedule throughout quarantine, and he found himself fatigued and anxious with everything happening around the world.
“After seeing everything that the pandemic has caused…Friends getting sick. Family members getting sick. The online classes. The lack of communication with faculty and even loved ones. It’s really gotten to me,” Fuentes said.
Cecilia Reyes, a fifth-year recreation administration major, shares Fuentes’ concerns.
The pandemic has caused Reyes to leave her job in order to care for her mental health, but the ongoing feeling of separation from friends and family has left her feeling isolated.
“It just gets to me emotionally,” Reyes said. “I feel like I don’t have the life I used to. I feel like I don’t have access to all the things I used to.”
The SHCC’s Let’s Talk program, newly renamed Let’s Teletalk, is allowing students to schedule individual sessions with licensed psychiatrists or attend walk-in services through Zoom.
Malia Sherman, the director of counseling and psychological services, said that the transition to online counseling went smoothly back in March, with the transition occurring over the span of two weeks.
Sherman said that attendance declined early into the pandemic, but as months of quarantine continued, group participation increased dramatically.
“Initially, people were actually relaxed,” Sherman said. “[But] as time has gone on…we’re now starting to see a real increase in psychological effects from the situation.”
Allee Her, a first-year pre-health major, is also feeling the effects of the pandemic as she is transitioning into her first semester in college, which has been a strange and difficult experience.
The final months of high school for Her were filled with abrupt cancellations of dance and orchestra performances, leading to what she said was an “emotionally rough” time.
Rather than walking with new friends on the first day of the fall semester, Her found herself meeting professors and classmates on a virtual screen.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to compare what college should be like,” Her said.
For students like Her, the SHCC has added a group called Alone Together for students feeling isolated from the impacts of COVID-19, which Sherman said has increased in attendance with the start of the school year.
This helps students struggling with their mental health through the pandemic, and Sherman recommends that, alongside taking advantage of the department’s counseling services, students should work toward creating a schedule in their daily lives.
Graduate student Jenise Box has been utilizing the mental health resources at Fresno State for a number of years and said the pandemic has led to a spike in her anxiety through the months.
Box said that counseling has provided her with a number of techniques to help manage her anxiety, and she continues habits such as healthy eating, breathing techniques and routinely walking to care for her mental health.
“You’re going to feel so much better because they’re going to help give you the techniques, whether it’s medication and therapy, to help you cope, so you don’t have to keep going if you don’t need to,” Box said. “And there’s just this personal sense of freedom when you’re able to acknowledge what’s going on.
Continuing basic healthy habits, staying active and taking time outdoors are all simple methods that Sherman says are important to remain mentally healthy.
“It’s really important to stay regulated, because it’s very easy when we’re at home to get lost in a TV show or lost surfing the internet or browsing social media,” Sherman said. “Time slips away from people, and when we don’t have that structure in our day, it’s hard to feel accomplished.”
After experiencing group counseling sessions with the SHCC, Reyes, in particular, remains passionate in emphasizing the importance of sharing mental health concerns with others.
“This pandemic shouldn’t control your life or what your plans are,” Reyes said. “It’s only temporary, and there’s help out there. Nobody’s alone.”
“We just really want to get the message out to students that this service is still here, we always tell students that this is a service that you’re paying for anyway with your student fees. It really makes sense to take advantage of it,” Sherman said. “We want to help people. We want to support people through this time.”
Links for all walk-in counseling programs are available on the SHCC website. To schedule an appointment for individual counseling, students can call the help center at (559) 278-2734.