Overwhelmed students struggle to keep up


Hannah Renton and Issabelle Vu

Photo Illustration by Hannah Renton and Issabelle Vu

Daniel Schwalm, Senior Staff Writer

Cynthia Russell has been feeling overwhelmed all semester. Russell, a psychology and philosophy pre-law junior, said that Hurricane Ida, the pandemic, among other current events have impacted her life in many ways, taking a toll on her mental health. And she said that despite the efforts Loyola has put forward, she still feels like she needs more than it has offered.
Russell said that after her mother fell seriously ill earlier this semester, the cumulative impact of all the things she was dealing with outside of school got to be too much, she said. Russel also stepped down from her position as senior resident assistant in Carrollton Hall and started to miss class, falling behind on attendance.
“My mental health tanked,” she said. “I was just overwhelmed.”
Russell is far from alone. A campus-wide email that was sent out on March 9 signed by associate provosts Erin Dupuis and Elizabeth Rainey said, “Reports from across the country suggest that students (and faculty) are burned out and continue to be disengaged from their studies. We have seen those trends here at Loyola leading to poor attendance and failure to submit completed work.”
That email included a list of resources available to help students, but Russell said that she feels the university isn’t doing enough.
“It feels like they’re saying, ‘We’re gonna throw some resources in your direction, resources that aren’t fully going to meet your needs. We’re gonna throw this out there just so we can patch it up with a (bandage) and say that we did something.’”
She said that her experience as a resident assistant has led her to believe that many other students feel the same way.
One other student who said she has been feeling the same way this semester is Music Industry Senior Nyla Jacobs.
Loyola forced upperclassmen to move off campus because of residential life’s reinstatement of the underclassmen residency requirement, which Jacobs said caused some of her stress and attendance issues.
“The school kicked me off campus, and now I have to work out transportation to campus every day,” she said. “Sometimes I miss class because the streetcar isn’t very reliable. My teachers ask me why I don’t take an Uber. Who has money to Uber to and from class every single time?”
Jacobs also said that she feels Loyola has not been attentive enough to unique stressors and trauma experienced by students of color. Specifically, she said that she has experienced depression related to her experiences as a Black woman.
“There are all of these things that happened during the pandemic that don’t even have to do directly with the pandemic, like Breonna Taylor,” she said.
She said that she feels like Loyola has glossed over the trauma that racist violence has caused Black students and other students of color. She said that she has seen a therapist through the University Counseling Center and appreciates the work of the counselors there but that there are limits to the help she can get there.
“It was frustrating because I wasn’t able to see an African-American therapist, and I have these things that I feel like somebody who isn’t Black can’t relate to,” she said.
Jacobs said that she thinks Loyola students would benefit from greater diversity in the counseling center.
Many Loyola students are hoping for changes in the university’s approach to what the student population sees as a large-scale mental health crisis.
Both Russell and Jacobs said that they think attendance should not impact students’ grades or that its weight should at least lessen. “I think tanking our grades and punishing us because we are exhausted from a system that’s failing us is detrimental and hurtful to students just in general.”
Katie McBride, director of academic advising and success coaching in the student success center, said that there are many faculty and staff members who understand what students are going through.
She said that while it can be difficult to reach out to teachers when one is falling behind, doing so can often result in students getting help that they didn’t think would be available to them.
She also suggested that for students who are feeling overwhelmed, trying to think of college as a distraction from the outside world can be helpful.
“If everything that’s going on outside of your world at college is overwhelming you, let college be that safe space for you,” McBride said.
But many Loyola students still feel that the university is worsening their mental health struggles instead of helping.
“A lot of why I came to Loyola was about community support, protection, love, care, and I don’t feel like I’m getting that.” Russell said.