Editorial | New semester brings old worries over mental health

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Mental illnesses and cognitive disorders have proved to be a struggle for millions around the world, especially as more and more people receive diagnoses every year.

One of the only positive aspects about the COVID-19 pandemic is the growing awareness regarding mental health, spurring a greater understanding of the struggles and experiences of neurodivergent and mentally ill people.

While students try and acclimate to yet another semester where classes are on Zoom — no matter how temporary — the struggle to prioritize fulfilling all of our many needs becomes increasingly difficult. When we are separated from our peers and the structure provided by in-person classes, we find ourselves struggling to maintain our well-being. This situation is even more intense for those who battle with their mental health, as the stress of a new semester and the highly transmissible Omicron COVID-19 variant that is further extending our “new normal,” gather to create overwhelming pressure for many.

For students who spent the holidays with toxic families, not allowing their weeks off to feel like a real break from the trials of everyday life, these problems can be emotionally taxing. And those lucky enough to have found a therapist or health care provider while at school may not have had that help available to them outside Pennsylvania, as health care provider licensing is state-based.

Also stressful is working to receive accommodations from the University. Disability Resources and Services provides accommodations, but in order to know you have a disability, you have to be diagnosed with one. Students must seek out help to be diagnosed with a disability — and for those who are not native to Pittsburgh, this task can seem extremely daunting. Many variables, including the stigmatization of mental and cognitive disorders, accessibility and economic factors, can determine whether or not someone can obtain the necessary resources.

Despite the challenges this can pose, an encouraging Student Government Board town hall last October refreshed a much-needed conversation about the betterment of students in regard to the pandemic and mental health.

Dr. Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center, said “we have an entire campus that’s here to support your well-being and help you thrive.”

All members of the Pitt community should embrace this mindset of helping others and further strive to take on a more inclusive look at student health, especially given the fraught start to the spring semester. By acknowledging the struggles of students and helping to provide tangible solutions that will help them thrive in all aspects of their lives, Pitt will better its students in substantial ways.