On Wednesday, First Lady Casey DeSantis, the chairwoman of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, led a discussion of the mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on Florida’s college students.
The First Lady called for members to analyze and amplify state college and universities’ responses to the social and emotional challenges brought on by the mitigation efforts and policies put in place to address the virus.
Amid the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on Americans and their mental health, substance abuse and suicidal ideation. An overwhelming majority–75 percent–of respondents in the 18-24 age demographic reported at least one adverse mental health symptom, and in that same age group, 25 percent considered suicide in the past 30 days.
“It is key that not only our young people feel supported, but that they have the critical resources necessary to meet their mental health needs,” said DeSantis. “Universities and college campuses across the state are vital in the battle against months of increased isolation and loneliness, which can intensify anxiety, stress and depression.”
“Under the First Lady’s leadership, the Children and Youth Cabinet had a meaningful discussion about the mental health of Florida’s children and youth – including college students,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Sec. Chad Poppell. “COVID-19 has had a unique impact on young adults, and I look forward to working with the Cabinet to ensure they have healthy, happy college experiences.”
“It was an honor to speak before the Children and Youth Cabinet today about the importance of the mental well-being of our collegiate students across the state,” said Dr. Thomas Joiner, a psychology professor at Florida State University “It is crucial that Florida colleges and universities continue to provide necessary resources to mitigate some of the new challenges students are facing due to the pandemic.”
The Cabinet heard from Joiner, who oversees Florida State University’s Laboratory for the Study and Prevention of Suicide-Related Conditions and Behaviors, on the measures the university is taking to ensure their students’ mental wellbeing. The Cabinet also heard from Erik Dellenback, who leads the governor’s Faith and Community Based Initiative, on the office’s collaboration with the Department of Children & Families to bolster foster parent recruitment efforts.