Some Barbados Community College (BCC) students struggled to cope in the online learning environment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to seek help for mental health issues.
That disclosure came from principal Annette Alleyne who said that when most classes were conducted online due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the BCC management had received increased reports from the institution’s Counselling and Placement Centre about students with mental health challenges.
She said it was also noted in BCC Registrar Roger Worrell’s report that the number of students requesting extended studies had doubled between 2020 and 2021.
“It was unusual. A large number of students were asking for extended studies – another year and another semester – because some of them chose to defer from various programmes. In some instances where we had students doing clinicals, they couldn’t get into the sites to do their clinicals. But in a number of cases, the students had chosen to defer some of their programmes,” Alleyne said at BCC’s Convocation Ceremony.
“And then when students did their portfolio for the visual arts and so on, a number of . . . their pieces showed the struggle some of them had with anxiety, with loneliness, depression, etc. So we knew that it was a concern for the students during the online period and that is why we have made such a great push to have students come back face-to-face.”
She added that the Students Guild had also hosted a Mental Health Week focused on issues affecting the student body.
“[They] had various initiatives and activities that could help to alleviate some of the stressors that they were experiencing,” Alleyne explained.
The principal highlighted research conducted in the United States which indicated that students who experienced mental health challenges during the pandemic appeared to be ‘quiet quitting’ – that is, doing just enough to complete their studies and not going the extra mile.
However, Alleyne cautioned the new students that the “just enough and no more” attitude had serious repercussions in an extremely competitive world, as she told them that those who gave more were the ones who excelled and succeeded.
“If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, loneliness, there is help, ask for help. Join a club, form a study group, reach out to our Counselling and Placement Centre; there is help. If you are struggling with mental health challenges, do not be one of the one-third of college students who are quiet quitting,” she said.
The BCC principal also put the newcomers on notice that the excitement and euphoria they felt at the start of their college journey would eventually fade and they might begin to feel exhausted and even question why they were there.
“And it is at these times when you need your community, a friend, a study group, someone to be able to give a word of encouragement. And our theme for this year, One Community, Working Together, Achieving Together, becomes even more appropriate.
“Life will throw things at you – a pandemic, an ashfall, a hurricane, some weird weather patterns where roofs get blown off and so on, the unexpected loss of a friend or loved one, betrayal, these things happen in life. But what it is that will keep you going and keep you firm in the face of any of these adversaries will be your sense of purpose and what it is that you want to achieve,” Alleyne said. (AH)