Mental health is paramount during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on stress and anxiety for many
people, including students. – Courtesy Michael Clesle

by Blanca Munoz

Special to Ka ‘Ohana

Since Hawai‘i’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID, residents have been urged to isolate in their homes for extended periods of time. While beaches, parks and trails have started reopening, people still can’t gather in large groups. In addition, hundreds have lost their jobs during the pandemic. All of these changes and uncertainty can bring high amounts of stress and anxiety, particularly for students. 

“When we progressed into infection and more change and then finally shutdown, that created a lot of mood shifting,” said Desrae Kahale, WCC’s mental health counselor. “So, the moods have started to shift towards anxiety primarily. When things escalated, it became more intense, and confusion manifested, which ultimately led to depression. Students decided to drop out because of how difficult things got.”  

Kalahe said mood shifting may cause biological symptoms, if not treated. Maintaining a healthy body and focused mind play a crucial role for a student to succeed in college. Having too much stress can make you sleep longer or cause insomnia as well as bring racing thoughts, which will generally make a student sick. 

One case of mood shifting was experienced by Anisa Wiseman, a woman interviewed for a March 27 Honolulu Civil Beat article titled “Coronavirus is spiking levels of anxiety, panic and stress.”

The 29-year-old North Shore resident thought she caught the virus due to her vomiting one day. Wiseman said, “My anxiety was giving me all these different scenarios of how I could have contracted it, and the most ironic thing is that my anxiety is probably the reason I threw up to begin with.” 

Kahale helps students through the stresses of the pandemic. She also encourages them to practice coping skills at home. One effective tool she suggests is deep-breathing exercise.

“It is as effective as meditation,” she said. “Also going out to a quiet place, freely. Going for a walk is another coping tool to ease tension.”  

She suggests that students give themselves breaks of 30 minutes for every two hours of studying and to step away from the computer.

“In terms of coping, we need to take a break from social media to shut down our brains at least,” Kahale added. 

She further suggests to continue keeping in touch with loved ones, especially during this time.

Online counseling is also available by phone or Zoom. Other services are open to students if they are at campus or home. 

“Those that came through this situation are more resilient than ever,” Kahale said. “And those that are facing this time now, because I kept in touch with them, are able to deal with it. They actually processed it, so we’re going through this COVID thing all together.”

Getting support from family and friends, connecting virtually to a counselor, or going to therapy can help avoid suicidal thoughts and behaviors and to manage depression and anxiety. For more support, contact one of the agencies listed below.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255
WCC Mental Health & Wellness (Desrae Kahale) 808-235-7393 (Madoka “Doka” Kumagai) 808-348-0663
WCC Disabilities Services808-235-7448