Students still searching for peace of mind post-pandemic

OSWEGO, NY – COVID-19 brought SUNY Oswego to an instant halt when the virus took over the United States in 2020. Two and a half years later, an outsider might say that life is back to normal. Students are unmasked, the walkways are flooded around lunchtime, and campus life groups are back in full force.

However, students are still feeling the fallout.

“I’ve talked to some of the counselors on campus. A lot of people have what is basically PTSD from the COVID pandemic, and they’re worried about being around people,” said Sadie Borruso, a member of SUNY Oswego’s Counseling Outreach Peer Educators, or COPE. 

Borruso is a junior at Oswego studying psychology. In her first two years, she experienced the full brunt of the pandemic and its restrictions. Through her work with COPE, which acts as the public eyes and ears of the college’s Counseling Services Center, Borruso has seen first-hand how her fellow students are handling college in a post-pandemic world.

“I don’t know if college is more stressful than it was before the pandemic, but the counseling center is seeing a lot more crisis appointments than they have in the past. I think the number is up 75% right now…I think people are starting to realize how badly the pandemic affected them,” said Borruso.

“I think it’s the pre-existing things that we’re all dealing with that have changed,” said Dr. David Crider, a communications professor at SUNY Oswego . “This experience of going through the pandemic and the mental health toll it has taken on all of us is there, and it’s going to remain there for quite a number of years. Even years from now when kids in elementary school come up through, they’ll still have that time of loss.”

For university officials, this was a major issue even before the pandemic hit. The timing of the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst to cause an ongoing concern to become very widespread in a short period of time. 

“This was something that was already on our radar before the COVID-19 pandemic,”said Crider. “Our students today are much more open about saying when they need help. They’re not doing it to try and get out of things. They’re really open about their feelings.”

It’s been noticed by the top brass at all levels. Federal government officials have designated more money to support mental health services at colleges coast-to-coast. On top of these changes, so does the way professors teach their classes and interact with their pupils. The long-held stereotype of stuffy, starchy, and detached professors is far from the reality on a modern campus.

“Our job description is changing and we need to change with it. A lot more of it now is that it is part of the job. Students are going to share their mental health concerns with you. You need to be on the lookout for warning signs. And you need to recognize when they tell you that they’re having a really rough stretch,” said Crider. 

This is not a blanket issue for students, though. Incoming first-years and even sophomores have had way different experiences with COVID compared to the upperclassmen. 

“A lot of the students that were freshmen in 2020 like me are getting better,” said Borruso. “A lot of students in my year are still feeling quite lonely. The freshmen this year are going completely feral. This is their first taste of freedom after the pandemic.”

Part of the battle for counselors and their clients is shedding habits taught by previous generations. This effort is part of an ongoing societal shift led by Generation Z, who tend to be more open with their thoughts and feelings.

“It’s really the fact that we have created the conditions where students can feel better expressing themselves. We don’t tell them to keep it all stuffed inside like my parents might have,” said Dr. Crider. “It’s expected that if you’ve got any issues, keep them to yourself. Otherwise, that’s a sign of weakness. That mindset has definitely decreased. I’d say some of it is on parenting, where we’ve told our kids that it’s okay to speak up and say these things.”

As the counseling center continues to handle high volumes, Borruso and COPE are trying to reach out to students. The program encourages students to seek help if they need and try their best to get involved on campus to become part of the greater SUNY Oswego community.

“Show up to events and make friends in class,” said Borruso. “It’ll be the easiest way to make friends. If you’re with a group or something, genuinely hang out outside of class.”
For more information on mental health resources at SUNY Oswego, visit or call at 315-312-4416. If you are in a crisis situation, call the Crisis Lifeline at 988.