Virginia Book is currently pursuing her Associate’s Degree in Sociology at Richland Community College. She plans to minor in Mathematics and attend a 4-year university to obtain an advanced degree in social work. Virginia is active on Richland’s student leadership council, judicial board, Phi Theta Kappa honor program, and recently took on a position as the student trustee on Richland’s board.

We recently spoke with Virginia to gain her perspective on current issues and how META plays a role in helping students like her.  

Mental and Emotional Impact from Current Events

META: How are you coping mentally and emotionally with the COVID-19 pandemic and other events going on in the country? Are you at all nervous about the future and the role you’ll have as an adult?

VIRGINIA: I believe I speak for most college students when I say this was not a part of my plan. There is a lot of planning that comes along with being a college student, but a global pandemic is not something that you can pencil into a monthly schedule.

When my courses were switched to an online format, I was originally optimistic. I did not realize how hard it would become to keep up with my coursework, but it was quite a struggle to finish the semester.

The pandemic became a constant worry in the back of my head. This made coursework seem pointless and extremely daunting.

Many of my fellow classmates felt the same and struggled with the transition. Many of our grades were affected by the switch, which may affect our future education and careers I think that our educators will be different now, and that concerns me about the future.

The installation of social distancing guidelines, masks, and limiting the number of students won’t be the only factors to affect our education. We have lived through a global pandemic, as well as global unrest over social injustices. We will not only be a part of history, but we will have the responsibility of making changes in society that are long overdue.

It will be our generation’s job to teach our children about riots and protests, and that no matter an individual’s skin color, we are all equal. We have responsibilities for making a change, and I hope our generation will rise to the occasion.

Stigma on Mental Health

META: We talk a lot about META’s privacy and how no one can find out you’re using it for counseling. Do you feel there is still a stigma around mental health issues, or are students more open about being in therapy?

VIRGINIA: The stigma around mental health has changed over the past few years. The current group of college students has become much more open when it comes to anxiety and depression, [I would estimate] about 50 percent of students suffer from mental illness. 

Students are much more open about therapy now than they were in the past, but I believe that stigma does still exist. 

Those who have mental illnesses know how important it can be to know there are others who are going through similar situations. There are also people who stray away from people with mental illnesses.

I think there is also a stigma about therapy, and it can be frowned upon for talking openly about your mental health. I think especially for men, it can be extremely stigmatized, as it is seen as weak to talk about emotions. I don’t believe that it should be stigmatized, as it can be very helpful to talk about what you are dealing with.

Benefits of Counseling

META: In your opinion, how can college students benefit from mental health support such as counseling?

VIRGINIA: I believe that many students would find counseling to be extremely helpful. College can be extremely stressful for students, as so much is expected of us. Right now is the perfect time for students to get extra support, as each of us are living through a part of history. 

I personally signed up for META as I was becoming overwhelmed with my mental health and everything going on in the world right now. Being able to talk about how the pandemic is affecting me and learn different coping mechanisms that help with my anxiety helped a lot. 

It can be helpful for all students to simply learn how to cope with the stress that we are all enduring and the uncertainty of the future.

The META app is available to all Richland students for free to provide convenient emotional and mental health resources.