Letter to the Editor – Fighting Two Pandemics at Once

Ashley Plageman

It’s no secret that mental illness has been an extensive challenge during times of illness, loss, and isolation in the past year and a half. Government regulations on quarantine and stay-at-home orders keep people inside their homes, but the lack of social outings and normal routines may keep people inside their heads. As times change, anxiety levels are rising, and people are not sure what will happen next.

The CDC documented a surge of adults who reported having symptoms of depression several months into COVID-19. In the first half of 2019, 11% of adults in the US claimed they experienced symptoms of depression, increasing to 42% of adults in December of 2020. The increase was most prevalent in adults ages 18-29 (Vahratian et al., 2021). Just under half of a nation’s population experiencing psychological distress is concerning, to say the least, and yet the conversation surrounding the issue is lacking.

Since the most vulnerable group to symptoms of depression is young adults, I propose we bring attention to the conversation on mental health services for that age group. There should be more funding for universities, such as UW Oshkosh, to educate students on the signs and symptoms of mental illness. It is common for students to neglect mental health because they do not realize the severity of an issue, or they believe it is just “part of college” to feel that way.

College students already deal with numerous stressors in their everyday lives, and it’s safe to say that COVID-19 is just another thing to pile on the list. Consequently, mental health upkeep should be at the forefront of the conversation. It’s not just masks that save lives, it’s mental health care too.