APSU students are returning for the academic year, but they are facing a new reality.

As classes begin despite the COVID-19 pandemic, some students are using virtual conferences to connect with professors and classmates. Some are taking face-to-face classes, hybrids and other possible avenues. While APSU is making changes to promote social distancing, students are trying to adapt to them by following guidelines and avoiding large groups.

For some students, these changes can be stressful. Being socially isolated while worrying about major changes can take a toll on their mental health.

According to Counseling and Health Services Director Jeff Rutter, the top concerns for incoming students during the pandemic are financial stress, fear of contracting COVID-19 virus and how long the pandemic will last.

According to a report on “The Impact of COVID-19 on College Student Well-Being” by The Healthy Minds Network and American College Health Association, “Students are concerned about their personal safety and security, but even more so, about people they care about possibly contracting the virus.”

The pandemic also causes some students to develop a fear of not receiving help when needed, according to Rutter. They may live far away from their family or friends, whom they can reach out for guidance. This fear can cause students to feel anxious during difficult times as they pay attention to the physical symptoms of their anxiety.

Physical symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, aching and tight muscles, nausea and shaking—all of which are also potential symptoms of COVID-19. People who are fearful of catching the virus may confuse anxiety symptoms for the virus, and the cycle repeats itself.

“Everybody’s different, and we don’t want to make the mistake of assuming one size fits all, so different people are going to respond differently,” Rutter said.

Making appointments for face-to-face counseling sessions becomes difficult during the pandemic. As people worry more about the virus, counseling services are offering telehealth to clients who are social distancing.

Telehealth contains several benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telehealth keeps patients safe by “reducing potential infectious exposures.” By using telehealth, rather than in-person counseling, clients are keeping the community safe by avoiding the risks of being infected.

Student Counseling Services at APSU are also offering virtual counseling sessions for students, including individual counseling, group counseling and Let’s Talk, drop-in counseling for students to enter without making appointments.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call Counseling Services at 931-221-6162 or go to apsu.edu/health-and-counseling for more information.