OPINION: Maintaining community is vital for mental health during coronavirus pandemic

April 10, 2020

“I can’t do this, how am I going to survive this, this is too much, I can’t handle this, I hate feeling alone, I hate being alone, I’m going to die, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.” 

These were just some of the thoughts that were running through my mind like a broken record the minute the order of social distancing was issued by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

As someone who was diagnosed with suicidal ideation and anxiety last spring, communities are something that I have heavily relied upon to prevent myself from going down a dark pathway that would not only bring myself serious mental harm but, in some cases, physical harm as well. 

Going to school in such a large, diverse and busy city, surrounded with classmates and friends radiating positive energy and energetic personalities, trying to take myself out of my comfort zone by exploring Chicago; the world that I relied on so much for comfort suddenly coming to a standstill sent my mind into a frenzied overdrive as I tried to figure out what I was going to do. And this is a question that has not only been asked by students, but also by professors, medical officials and the entire world. 

Going through the stages of denial when the first email was sent out that all classes will be moved online until further notice. The frustration of having to quickly pack up your belongings and catch the next flight home to be with your family. The anger and hurt that some of the most amazing people you’ve met this quarter you won’t be able to see for months, and finally, the feeling of acceptance where you acknowledge the situation, the precautions you need to take and the events happening around the world.

“I went into social distancing unprepared,” DePaul junior Maddie Norrgard said. “With finals happening at the same time as all this, I simply didn’t have time to prepare. It’s like, just as I was trying to work on myself and seek the help I needed, this happened, and now it seems impossible to stay safe and sane.” 

This has been a journey that although we are all dealing and struggling with in our own way, we are still united as a large community that is more than willing to help out another person whenever they might need it. 

On an almost daily basis, we receive notifications from The New York Times and CNN about the latest developments on COVID-19, and we see the heartbreaking video footage of personal testimonies from doctors on the frontlines and messages of community members asking for prayers and support. All these factors, which are happening at the same time, place a strain on the mental health of an individual and further takes them away from that motivation to not only focus on schoolwork, but also themselves.

However, despite the loneliness and intense boredom that I had been feeling at home in the suburbs while practicing social distancing, I took it upon myself to make sure that I use this time to strengthen as many relationships as I can so I still had that bit of social interaction in my daily routine. 

Whether it be having a call with friends over a group FaceTime, attending lectures over Zoom where we would have insightful and relaxed discussions. For example, the Muslim community has been active on Instagram livestreams and Zoom call meetings where they have been sharing and reciting poetry in the praise of the births of noble and holy Islamic personalities. This is that time where we human beings, one of the most social creatures to ever walk the planet, realize the impact that each and every single one of us have had on another person. 

“We need each other more than ever, so we shouldn’t be [isolated] completely from each other, we should be finding some ways to connect with each other,” said Dr. Orson Morrison, the director of DePaul’s Family and Community Services. 

The trials and tribulations that we are currently going through are no doubt terrifying and stressful; however, this is that time where we encourage ourselves as well as others to take care of each other. You don’t have to spend a large fortune to ensure your mental and physical well-being because even the simplest of things that you practice and make a habit of create lasting impacts for your welfare in the future. 

“I believe that the writing [and] journaling exercise I do is a great way to help with mental health, but if it’s possible to have therapists or general professionals on mental health could conduct online video chat sessions [it] could also help if someone needs that communication,” said Danielle Roche, a junior at DePaul.

No matter how scary the situation is, we still have this yearning to talk about it, to communicate with others about it whether it be through a simple text, or a phone call.

I encourage you all to become the pillars of communication and strength, to be there for the upperclassmen, the lowerclassmen, people in the same grade levels and classes as you — allow a conversation to take place where you unleash your worries and struggles. 

No one should have to go through this alone, and no one will go through it alone so long as the exceptional work of DePaul’s professors, determination of the students and the fearless conviction of our doctors exist to combat against this global battle.

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  • R

    RAZASAURUSApr 11, 2020 at 2:40 am

    a great article that puts mental health into perspective, especially during these times!!!

  • G

    Gazina HussainApr 11, 2020 at 1:54 am

    I’m so proud of you for speaking up about this and mental illness, honestly it’s an issue that we need to open up about in our communities. So much respect for you & what you’re doing for our youth 🥺❤️