Journal on Empowering Teaching Excellence


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College is a time of increased stress and anxiety. The current changes in attendance and methods of instruction due to COVID-19 have demonstrated even higher levels of stress, anxiety, and mental health issues. Tailoring interventions to the specific needs of a campus community has been proposed as an appropriate means to the current crisis. This study identifies the mental health needs of students at a rural college as they pertain to the effects of the pandemic.

Questionnaires collected data from college students (N=33) at Athens State University, a rural university in north Alabama, to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health and well-being. Data obtained from the 58-question instrument were analyzed through quantitative and qualitative methods. Results Data revealed that 33/33 (100%) students indicated higher levels of anxiety and stress due to the outbreak. Stressors contributing to the increased anxiety, stress, and depressive symptoms included anticipated duration of the pandemic (31/33, 93.9%), stress of current financial situation (24/33, 72.7%), uncertainty of the future (31/33, 93.9%), decreased social interactions and sense of community with peers (29/33, 87.9%), concerns about the health of loved ones and self (33/33, 100%). Students described a high level of comfort in participation in a flexible learning environment (31/33, 93.9%). Students identified various coping mechanisms. The results of our study underscore the need for directed mental health interventions for college students and flexible platforms of study. Consideration of developing a flexible learning environment should be included as part of directed mental health interventions.