Stricter guidelines, isolation, uptick in cases at UVA takes a mental toll on some students

Stricter guidelines, isolation, uptick in cases at UVA takes a mental toll on some students
UVA students (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Increased isolation measures and surging COVID-19 cases are taking a mental toll on some students at the University of Virginia. For many, managing hours of school work on top of a global pandemic is far from easy.

UVA has had more than 550 student cases of COVID-19 since the start of the school year, forcing many students to isolate, quarantine, and alter their day-to-day living.

“I worry most about students who don’t stay connected to others in some way, shape, or form,” UVA Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Nicole Ruzek said.

"I’m really worried about first-years because they don’t always have the same support network,” UVA Student Council Member Abel Liu said.

Students living on-grounds were told to be prepared to move to quarantine or isolation at any given moment.

“They’re being asked to move out of their dorms while classes are still going on within 48 to 72 hours,” Liu said.

UVA CAPS has had to step up to the plate. “We have two groups dedicated to students in isolation and quarantine who really just want to connect while they’re going through that experience," Ruzek said.

Even those not in quarantine are feeling the stress. “We have some students who are feeling a bit more isolated, who’ve been feeling like it’s harder to connect, given the restrictions," Ruzek added.

Liu points out that Student Council surveyed 2,000 students about their experiences. “We found some pretty shocking things,” he said. "About 62% of students reported that they were really lonely, about 50.6% of students reported that they suffered from severe mental health challenges.”

Liu says academic stress and isolation only magnifies these struggles. “Students are dropping classes right now because they don’t think they can handle that fourth or fifth class, but maybe they could if they had credit/no credit,” he added.

Liu is pushing the university to give students the choice to have a credit/no credit grading system.

“About 84% of students at UVA prefer credit/no credit in some form,” he said. "We have been saying to anyone who will listen, that credit/no credit is the number one thing you can do right now to improve student well being and mental health.”

UVA had this grading policy when classes went virtual in the spring. “The pressures, stress, and uncertainty this semester are definitely more extreme than last semester," Liu said.

Whether UVA lightens the grading policy or not, counselors with UVA urge students to tap into resources if they need help.

“We definitely want students to know like we’re open we’re available and we’re going to provide the services in a safe way," Ruzek said.

To check out what mental health resources are available at UVA, visit https://uvahealth.com/services/mental-health.

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