(Article Source Boston University Behavioral Health)
“It’s a month into the fall semester. Classes are hectic, clubs are meeting, the Dog Pound will be back cheering at Agganis in just over two weeks after a long break. But despite this return to the bustle of campus life and community living after 18-plus months of the coronavirus pandemic, many students say they feel like their social lives haven’t resumed in the same way. They are still lonely.
“BU has lifted spacing restrictions, and I have to admit it was jarring seeing these big crowds of people again,” says Bennett Solomon (COM’23, CAS’23). “I’m not on most social media, not on Instagram. I feel like I came back to campus and the world has already resumed.”
While the campus is back to normal physically, many students admit it’s not as easy as they’d expected to be back emotionally, especially with the requirement of indoor masks and weekly COVID-19 tests. It’s not quite “normal” college life. Faces are often blocked, some are still hesitant to socialize inside, and eating indoors still feels a little risky. Freshmen, of course, are new to Comm Ave, but this feeling of newness is shared by some BU students who are just returning after having been remote since March 2020. Many feel this sense of being on the outside looking in, confessions they share on Reddit and other social media platforms, where classmates often chime in with encouraging words, supportive advice, and reassurance that they are not alone.
The loneliness epidemic has not gone unnoticed. BU Student Government Mental Health Committee members have discussed it in meetings and are planning events and initiatives they hope will help, such as a wellness festival and game nights, and they hope their smaller, more frequent events will be more conducive to helping students make friends, versus a larger setting. The College of Arts & Sciences is offering the course FY101 for first-year students, with programming on making friends and finding community. And resident assistants have been told to do extra outreach, as well, to build community in their dorms, with monthly floor conversations, door-to-door check-ins, neighborhood councils, and weekly in-person meetings with faculty-in-residence.
Carrie Landa, director of Student Health Services Behavioral Medicine, says her office has seen a significant increase in demand this semester, for reasons ranging from depression to anxiety, falling in line with a national trend. A large number of these calls, Landa says, are students in despair because they are lonely. “Students call us in the middle of the night, saying, I can’t sleep, I don’t know how to meet people,” she says. “They feel disconnected on campus and don’t know where to meet a friend.””