Students adapt to the pandemic, local fires, death, and political divide

Published by Robin Garcia on

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Students adapt to the pandemic, local fires, death, and political divide

UCC students and staff have lost jobs, family members, relationships, homes, and, for some, the joys of life. These traumatic losses impact physical, emotional and mental life. Social distancing and isolation worsen these issues.

Trauma is “an overwhelming experience that deeply disturbs us inwardly and continues to negatively affect how we view and relate to ourselves, and to everything else in our world,” psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk in his book “The Body Keeps Score.”

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UCC’s Life Coach, Hanna Culbertson, states, “COVID 19 and its related impacts have definitely been a collective traumatic event that have affected humans on a global level.”

According to a study in American Surgery, 2017, only 10% of patients who “screened positive for emotional issues (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and/or psychological distress)” received help. Many students who experienced trauma within the last year may also have failed to receive help because they simply don’t know how to get it or because they don’t have the resources.

Undealt with trauma can affect the body and mind negatively. Anxiety, fear, emotional numbness, a lack of joy, a decreased desire for connection, hopelessness, irritability, concentration issues, and poor sleeping and eating patterns greatly impact mental health, according to experts.

A Roseburg woman who is currently ill with COVID- 19 explains how the pandemic has affected her life. “Since the pandemic I would say that being quarantined most of the time and having to learn to almost adapt to a new way of living such as having less places to go and do activities and always being inside has made my mental health decrease.  I feel like my depression has been worse, and I don’t feel like I have as much hope for the future,” she stated.

So, how can people deal with these changes?

Some find comfort in having someone to vent to, such as a counselor, life coach or even just a close friend. “Often simply talking through all the things impacting you in a confidential non-judgmental space, and think through next steps can be helpful,” says Culbertson.

Others find comfort going on walks, finding hobbies that they enjoy, and calling loved ones to check up on them.

“We went on lots of hikes and stayed outdoors as much as possible. The kids went to summer camp in Eugene, we took vacation and invested in art supplies as well as video games,” says UCC student Jennifer Williams.

Also, practicing self-compassion and telling oneself that it is okay to feel this way can be helpful as well, Culbertson says.

“We have had to change the way we work, go to school, and parent. The adjustment to online learning is a big change. Often online learning can be more challenging, requires more time management, and can be an increased workload. This has been a big adjustment for most students,” Culbertson says.

“I am not sure how much these virtual classes affect other students, but it definitely affects my emotional and physical health and my learning outcome,” UCC student Sophavid Choum-Starkey says.

One UCC student who was living with one of her parents had to move herself and her child out of the home due to her parent getting COVID-19. “It was the hardest thing for me because I also had to juggle a baby on top of moving our stuff, watching a house, working, and being stressed about my mom waiting for the impending doom of COVID-19,” Jerika Whightsil, says.

The combination of these losses and changes can cause a great deal of stress and can make tasks, like schoolwork, seem more challenging.

“Short periods of stress are healthy and positive for the human body and mind; they help us move towards our goals and complete tasks. Long prolonged periods of stress, however, can be experienced as toxic for the body and mind,” Culbertson says. “No one can do everything all the time.”

Culbertson provides personal counseling services for help with things like anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. She provides six to eight sessions, free to students, and if necessary, will help assist students in finding other mental health resources. Culbertson also runs a stress management group two days a week over Zoom.

Tutors and peer mentors can also help with planning schedules, organizing time, and completing other skills that can help students succeed.


UCC Life Coach Hanna Culbertson:
Phone: 541-440-7900
Stress Management Group: Tuesday 9:30- 10:30 and Thursday 2:00- 3:00

Tutors/ Peer Mentors:
Phone: 541-440-4600

Staff Counseling Support through Employee Assistance Program:
Phone: 866-750-1327

Disaster Distress Hotline:
Phone: 1- 800- 985- 5990

Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Phone: 1- 800- 273- 8255

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