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As the virus surges again, U.S. colleges worry about a mental health crisis.

todayDecember 23, 2021

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Colleges across the United States are facing a mental health crisis among students, driven in part by the pandemic.

After almost two years of remote instruction, restricted gatherings and constant testing, many students are anxious, socially isolated, depressed — and overwhelming mental health centers. And the swell of new coronavirus cases, driven by the Omicron variant, threatens to make life on campus worse.

In the last few days, the list of universities that will hold classes remotely at least for a few weeks in January has grown, while other colleges and universities have moved exams online and urged students to go home for winter break as soon as possible. These steps and others raise the question of what campus life will look like in January, and whether there will even be campus life.

Loneliness and isolation, along with loss of motivation or focus, are among the top concerns of college students who have sought counseling during the pandemic, according to national data collected by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.

Some administrators worry that there is a conflict between protecting students’ physical health and their mental health.

“Restricting the ability to interact — there’s a price to pay for all that,” said Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky. “Somebody said, ‘If we’re not careful, we’re going to trade one epidemic for another,’ and in many ways I think we are.”

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