The CUNY School of Public Health conducted a survey in April 2020 and found that 49% of CUNY students have reported a need for mental health support during the pandemic. Many CUNY students come from minority backgrounds and are first-generation college students who have to finance their way through college. Figuring out the college process with no guidance from family members and trying to gain access to higher education so they can live a better life is difficult. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the COVID-19 pandemic affected most students that were stuck in tiny apartments and were left feeling isolated. This takes a toll on one’s mental health.
As a first-generation college student myself, I’ve seen my parents struggle with financial burdens. I had my parents preach to me about going to college and getting into a good career so that I wouldn’t have to work as hard as them and still live a comfortable life. Growing up, I’ve seen the sacrifices my parents made and saw my dad working long hours. I barely got to see him because of that. Being exposed to financial hardships was a traumatic experience in itself. After the pandemic, these issues intensified as there was a decrease in our household income. Many CUNY students can relate to me on this issue. About 81.1% reported that they have had a loss of household income according to a Google survey shared by The Ticker. CUNY students are still facing financial struggles which makes many stressed and anxious.
In April 2020, a study published by the Journal of Urban Health surveyed 2,282 CUNY students. From this survey, it was found that 54.5% of students reported that they have experienced anxiety or depression. This proves that the pandemic left college students feeling isolated and disassociated from reality. Furthermore, CUNY Colleges have a counseling center but the current ratio of students to counselors is 2,400 students to one mental health counselor. This large ratio does not allow a student to get the individual attention that they need. Our New York State elected officials need to invest in mental health counseling by supporting NY bill A302/S844 to make the ratio of students to counselors at least 1,000 to 1 at CUNY and SUNY schools. Also, CUNY and SUNY officials should make it a priority to hire more Black and brown counselors. This way, students of color will feel more comfortable and heard when speaking about their issues to their counselor because they are more likely to relate to them. It is time that CUNY and SUNY students get the mental health support that they need to succeed in both their personal and academic lives.
Tajria Afrin is a member of Young Invincibles-New York’s 2022 Spring Young Advocates Program.