New Duke Study Finds Poor Mental Health Among Students, Faculty And Staff During Pandemic

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New study from a Duke research team shows how COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the mental health of students, faculty and staff at the University.

The research team, the ROUSE (Safely and Efficiently Reopening Our University) project, interviewed professors, staff and students employed by Duke University to determine the prevalence of symptoms of depression among an adult population. with low risk of infection and high safety.

About 40% of respondents reported symptoms classifying them as at risk for moderate depression, and about 25% of respondents were at risk for severe depression, according to a preprinted article by the team and several other academics in January. These levels are considerably high compared to other studies in the general population before the pandemic which found that about 5% of adults in the United States were at risk for severe depression.

“The impacts of the pandemic on mental health are enormous [and] ubiquitous, ”said Rachel Kranton, James B. Duke professor of economics, dean of social sciences and one of the founding members of the project.

One of the possible reasons younger respondents report more symptoms of depression is uncertainty about the future, team data suggests. The ROUSE project assesses this by asking questions about the progress, career and goals of participants. The survey, for example, asks participants to estimate “where they would have been if COVID hadn’t happened,” according to Kranton. Although the data for this question has yet to be analyzed, she expects to see a difference between student uncertainty and faculty or staff uncertainty.

The project’s biggest challenge was reaching the team’s target population, Kranton noted. The ROUSE project sought to collect data from all Duke employees except those with a primary appointment in the healthcare system. Indeed, healthcare workers experienced a different set of circumstances during the pandemic; their occupations made them more directly affected.

The ROUSE project team were “extremely grateful” to the university administration for giving them permission to send emails to their target population, although they experienced a low response rate in some cases. segments of the workforce, Kranton said.

“I hope the practitioners there are just paying attention to our results,” Kranton said. “I have absolute confidence in the people of [Counseling & Psychological Services], and what I’d like to see is that the people who make these decisions talk to people who have a lot of information about student mental health.

Jeff Kulley, psychologist, acting co-director and clinical director of CAPS, said healthcare professionals are doing just that.

“What we’re thinking about are the delayed responses people will have to their experiences during the pandemic and how to prepare for this wave of students coming to us,” Kulley noted.

Kulley explained that during the pandemic, there had been a significant drop in the use of campus mental health services; however, he now expects a “rebound in demand greater than before the pandemic.”

CAPS is also aware of anxious students and that “reopening things, while being celebrated as a positive thing in many ways, is threatening to some people,” Kulley said.

With the reopening of the Duke campus, CAPS plans to continue many strategies that have worked well during the pandemic and to provide more options for in-person counseling. The office adapted to the needs of students during the pandemic by developing workshops and working with Blue Devils Care, Kulley said, adding that “the biggest adjustment was that [CAPS] went from no telehealth services to 100% telehealth services during the pandemic. ”

In the fall, CAPS plans to provide access to in-person and virtual tours to provide “the best of both worlds,” Kulley said.

If you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, please call CAPS at 919-660-1000 or visit Blue Devils Care for support.


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