After more than a year of remote learning, interrupted traditions and stolen on-campus memories, Loyola University's graduating seniors will finally have their moment.
- Well, this past year has been really difficult for everyone. And for college students in Maryland and all across the country, it has created a mental health crisis. It's a battle between the impact of COVID and depression. So I took a closer look at what's driving this unsettling trend and how we can all get past it.
When the sun hugs Baltimore's salty May sky an M&T Bank Stadium--
- One more week of classes for seniors.
- After more than a year of remote learning, interrupted traditions, and stolen campus memories.
- A challenge is never something that you want to hide from.
- Loyola University's graduating seniors, like Katie Shoemaker, will finally have their moment.
KATIE SHOEMAKER: Getting a cap and gown and actually having a day where you say, OK, this is my graduation day, and I will be able to spend it with the rest of the senior class-- I think that surreal, and it's super exciting. And there's so many firsts of your lasts. And to miss out on that is hard for all seniors.
- Grades are in. A new bestcolleges.com study shows more than 90% of students nationwide are feeling mental health symptoms triggered by the pandemic. Nearly half say their battle interferes with learning, and they wrestle with social isolation and loneliness.
JASON PARCOVER: By far the number one issue that we work with is anxiety. We're also seeing a fair amount of depression, family challenges, economic stress-- it's been a scary time in that way-- relationships and a lot of loss.
- Dr. Parcover leads the Counseling Center at Loyola, a crucial role when 97% of college students are coping with the loss of a loved one and 26% face financial hurdles.
JASON PARCOVER: A number of our students have lost parents or grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but also the loss of life that they expected to be living right now.
- The intertwining of the pandemic, America's racial reckoning, and the unrelenting cloud of uncertainty has caused a mental health crisis. As students fight anxiety and depression, the CDC tells WJZ one in four people 18 to 24 have seriously considered suicide. Despite those sharp figures, Dr. Parcover likens his students resilience to the Japanese art form, kinsu.
JASON PARCOVER: They take broken pottery, and instead of discarding it, and instead of putting it together and trying to hide the breaks, they take gold, and they line the cracks, and they bind it back together.
- Did you ever have a moment where you just thought, I can't do this anymore-- the online learning, being away from my friends? Did you ever have a moment like that?
JACK DONAHUE: Thanksgiving I did down here. I wasn't able to go home. I think that those are the times where I came close to saying, I can't do this anymore. I need to do something different. I need to get away.
- Even while longing for family and friends, Jack took control of his own healing.
JACK DONAHUE: And I think that it is important for your self-care in this time.
- But for Katie, whose battle with COVID kept her from holidays with loved ones, the journey was tougher.
KATIE SHOEMAKER: College in itself is a pretty anxiety-provoking four years. And add a pandemic on top of it. I think the two combined-- it's just a lot of life transitions that nobody was really expecting to have, let alone expecting to go through, and the struggles that come with that.
JASON PARCOVER: I think in addition to getting high-quality therapy, they're also able to connect more with their peers.
- Together stronger. The class of 2021 is overjoyed to rewrite this chapter.
KATIE SHOEMAKER: we've gotten through the last year. It shows you can get through anything.
- Well, we thought was important to share those stories, especially it being Mental Health Awareness Month. Those students exhibit an incredible amount of resilience and dedication. If they can get through this, they can get through anything. Those are their words. So we encourage them and look forward to what they produce on the other side.
- It is such an important piece. You and I were chatting earlier. You think back to an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci a couple of months ago, and he said the mental health aspect of COVID-19 in the pandemic is something we haven't even begun to talk about as a country. You have been on this for months. It's an important story that needs to get out there.
- Yeah. It's going to be a long time before we can really physically and mentally recover from this pandemic, and so these are first steps for those students.
- It's a great piece, Nicole. Thank you.