As Georgetown University students transition to an online learning environment, they are now forced to access essential health resources, such as mental health services, virtually. In light of the increased stress and chaos that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, Georgetown staff and faculty must be especially considerate of students’ mental health.
This effort includes transferring all Counseling and Psychiatric Services offerings to an online format and faculty making strides to ease significant stressors. As final exams approach amid continued social distancing measures, mental health resources are especially important to students.
On March 13, students were asked to return to their permanent residences to enforce adequate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, CAPS suspended in-person services and began providing limited virtual programming. While CAPS offers some digital groups such as “Mindful Mondays” and “Recovering While Remote,” other essential offerings such as substance abuse group meetings have been completely canceled.
CAPS, despite having limited group programming, is still offering virtual one-on-one sessions with clinicians. These sessions may include guidance on connecting to resources or may lead to regular visits. CAPS Director Phil Meilman wrote to The Hoya describing the current status of CAPS.
“Where needed and appropriate we also conduct counseling, psychotherapy, and psychiatry visits virtually. CAPS is waiving all fee-for-service charges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Meilman wrote in an email to The Hoya.
While virtual guidance and treatment are a great resource for students, group programming and widely accessible mental health workshops are still a vital mental health resource. It is imperative that CAPS provide more specialized and accessible group programming than what it currently offers. Students need mental health support more than ever amid both an academically and personally stressful time.
While CAPS is a valuable resource for maintaining mental health, faculty must also make strides to support students’ mental well-being. With final exams quickly approaching, faculty members must keep in mind that learning in a virtual environment is much different from learning in a classroom. Faculty must be cognizant of the students’ unusual circumstances and must make an effort to not increase students’ stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many members of the Georgetown community lack a private workspace or even a stable internet connection, making it difficult to academically perform at their peak. Professors from across the country are reporting that students are suffering inequitable challenges during the transition to virtual learning, such as not being able to withdraw from classes that may be too difficult to complete at home without losing their financial aid.
Faculty were flexible with their syllabi and deadlines, according to Reagan Leibovitz (COL ’22).
“All of my classes either extended due dates for or dropped entirely major assignments during the initial transition,” Leibovitz wrote in an email.
Leibovitz also wrote that she was surprised to receive such strong support from professors. While many changes were made during the initial switch to online learning, faculty must maintain their flexibility as students enter final exams.
A university spokesperson also reached out to The Hoya to discuss Georgetown’s efforts to encourage flexibility from professors.
“The dean of each school has also reinforced these messages in many ways, stressing compassion and flexibility, throughout the last several weeks,” the spokesperson wrote.
While flexibility is certainly important, faculty must follow the deans’ messages by showing empathy and kindness to all students. Having professors who students feel they can rely on for support can boost students’ mental health and overall morale.
With the stress of final exams on top of the general anxiety caused by the sudden change in living situation and fear of illness, mental health services and overall support are essential to help students cope.
Every member of the Georgetown community must come together to help support mental health and well-being. By providing more alternatives to in-person CAPS sessions and emphasizing compassion and understanding when evaluating students, Georgetown staff and faculty can enable students to maintain their mental health, despite physical distance. During this anxiety-inducing time, it is vital that all members of the Georgetown community strive to support mental health and well-being.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.