Survey: Anxiety, depression and burnout on the rise as college students prepare to return to campus

Experts at Ohio State encourage students to make their mental health a priority as university leaders work to expand resources

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – A new survey led by The Ohio State University’s Office of the Chief Wellness Officer finds students are excited to get back to campus after a long and difficult year. But the trauma of the pandemic is still having a profound effect on their mental health. The survey found anxiety, depression and burnout are all on the rise among students, even as they find normalcy again. Those issues have also led to increases in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as vaping, drinking and eating unhealthy foods. The survey findings are similar to other data on college students throughout the U.S.

     “In August 2020, the first time we did the survey, student burnout was at 40%. In April 2021, it was 71%,” said Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State. “The survey really brought students’ continued mental health struggles to light, and it is crucial that we arm students with the resilience, cognitive-behavioral skills and coping skills that we know are protective against mental health disorders.”

    That’s why Melnyk and leaders at Ohio State and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are working to expand evidence-based programs and resources and to integrate them into the curriculum to help students prioritize their mental health. Experts are using data from the survey to develop new programs based on the needs of different subgroups of students and have released a new “five to thrive” checklist to help students support their mental health and well-being as they settle back into campus life.

     “Students are often overloaded with their regular coursework, so when they’re offered these wonderful programs they sometimes just see them as one more thing to do,” Melnyk said. “By making them part of their classes and campus life and ensuring students know exactly where to go for help as they need it, we can really impact a lot more lives and give these students skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”


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Mary Trabue studies at her home near Ohio State’s campus. She sought a counselor after her anxiety grew to an unmanageable level as she juggled a demanding engineering course load virtually during the pandemic.

Ohio State chief wellness officer Bernadette Melnyk led a survey that found depression, anxiety and burnout levels are on the rise among students as they prepare to return to campus.

Mary Trabue speaks with a counselor at The Ohio State University. After struggling with the stress and anxiety of the pandemic and virtual learning, Mary has learned healthy coping mechanisms that help when she’s feeling overwhelmed.

Mary Trabue is excited to get back to a more normal college experience this year as a senior at Ohio State. The stress of the pandemic and virtual learning led her to seek the help of a counselor and find healthy ways to cope.

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