Burnout post Covid

Sophia Heilman

Picture By Liam Killian

COVID-19 has irreversibly impacted some of the most fundamental years of students’ lives over the course of almost three years now. Seniors at Illinois Wesleyan, and all over the country, have only had one full year on campus without the pandemic interfering. First-years had many of their high school milestones ripped away from them and have also had their college experience affected. Without a doubt, burnout is affecting students across years at Illinois Wesleyan. 

According to Bernadette Melnyk, who is chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State, led a survey on burnout. 

 “In August 2020, the first time we did the survey, student burnout was at 40 percent. In April 2021, it was 71 percent,” Melnyk said. 

Students have been told to act like everything is normal while the news updates on highest death tolls due to COVID so far. In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, political upheavals occur nationally and in their hometowns. Students are constantly worrying about how to keep themselves, friends and family safe. All the while, they’re desperately trying to keep their grades up in their microbiology course and completing their essay on “Frankenstein.”

“Students are overloaded,” Melnyk said. 

Every new semester since we came back, there have been promises of “going back to normal”— as if any of us even know what “normal” is anymore. Every time the University changes how classes are going to work for the new semester, students have to readjust entirely and their worlds are turned upside down for the tenth time. There’s also, as any student will tell you, the constant threat of a class that will go online periodically during a COVID scare that disorients students further.

IWU determined this semester that all classes will be held in-person. Students don’t know if their fellow peers are being safe, or how lenient or strict an instructor will be with COVID regulations. Everyday going to class is taking a giant risk that in the past semesters we were told was not worth attempting, and now we act as if it is normal. It’s a hard switch that we have gotten zero recovery time for. 

The blame doesn’t go to the professors, who are rolling with the punches just as much as the students are, as the university changes COVID policies again. 

The university is trying its best to keep students safe but instead of using consistent secure measures they change it to what feels like once a week depending on the situation. 

Students are left grasping for some sense of normalcy and stability, and honestly, we’re losing grip here. This semester, everyone seems to be telling us it is back to normal now and we should be fine, but we’re not

Classes are harder than ever, no matter the course load, extracurriculars that were once well beloved take up the little free time we have and there is not enough time in the day. Though we know how unlikely it is that we will get it, all students seem to need a hard reset. We need time longer than the standard winter/summer break to catch up with what is going on in the world.

IWU should take responsibility for the mental health of their students, faculty and staff by simply acknowledging how hard this semester has been on everyone. In Fall of 2020, IWU adjusted the finals schedule so that finals were taken before Thanksgiving. This allowed everyone to take a full month off to decompress. This fall, though, it seems like that compassion has been forgotten. 

Students that live out of state are forced to decide if it’s worth the  high-risk travelling just to spend three days at home and then return to campus for a week— and then are supposed to do it again a week later. This is yet another added stressor on us. If COVID is going to continue to be our reality, the University needs to acknowledge the impacts it has and continue to make adjustments for the sake of students.