‘Everything has changed:’ WSU CAPS Wellness Director discusses COVID-19 effects on mental health

With COVID-19 still raging in the society, the Counseling and Prevention services at WSU have seen a rise in students who need help due to the pandemic.

According to Jessica Provines, Wellness Director for CAPS, over 50% of students who have used CAPS reported that one of the reasons they were coming in was due to the pandemic. Emerging research is also starting to indicate that death by overdose and suicide has increased during the pandemic.

“With COVID-19, everything has changed; the way we study, the way we learn, the way we go to school, and the way we interact with peers,” she said. “Students have to deal with all of this on top of all their other stresses.”

To help manage these stresses, Provines said that it’s important for students to find ways to relax, find balance, prioritize sticking to a routine, and make healthy lifestyle choices. 

“Students also need to find ways to connect with others, to get support from their classmates, to study together, to reach out to friends,” Provines said.

Provines said that it is important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and not getting enough activity.  Not having these basic health needs met can exacerbate existing mental health problems as well as cause new mental health problems.

Provines said that it is important to focus on mental wellness.  Students need to be able to function well to learn.  When we are experiencing challenges with mental health, it impacts our cognition.  We have trouble retaining things that we read, remembering things that we heard, and have more difficulty concentrating and focusing.  

“Our mental health impacts our brain functioning, and if we are not taking care of that then our ability to be academically successful is significantly jeopardized,” Provines said.

CAPS transitioned their resources to an online format at the beginning of the pandemic so that students could have access to mental health services amid isolation. Mental health services are available to all enrolled students.

To set up an appointment, students can call 978-4792 or through the WSU website.  Appointments are conducted via Zoom or phone call.

Students can also follow @shockerscaps on social media for weekly live streams and free tips to help manage mental health. CAPS recently launched their #WeSupportYou mental health awareness campaign and preventional suicide training on a national level at their website, suspendersforhope.com

Students can access the preventional suicide training for free with a valid WSU ID through the WSU website and purchase a t-shirt to support National Suicide Prevention month in September.

“As a two time suicide loss survivor myself, mental health awareness and suicide prevention is one of the most important things,” Provines said.  “I have committed to myself that we support you through the Suspenders for Hope mental health campaign, making sure it is widely known by students and those in our community that it is ok to not be ok and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”