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Rutgers University Student Government Hoping To Help Peers Struggling With Anxiety, Depression During Pandemic

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Saturday is World Mental Health Day, and this year, it has new meaning for so many left struggling with anxiety and depression because of the pandemic.

As CBS2's Kiran Dhillon explains, one group has been particularly impacted by the crisis.

Like so many students, 21-year-old Nicholas LaBelle has suffered from his fair share of anxiety.

"I've dealt with low-grade depression in my time at college," he said.

RELATED STORY -- CDC Survey: Coronavirus Pandemic Has Been Psychologically Crippling For Millennials, Young People

COVID has only made his stress worse, and as the president of the student body at Rutgers University, he's witnessed first hand that his peers are suffering too.

"Many of them were unemployed, and then there's the immediate question, oh my god, can I go to school?" he said.

The students aren't alone.

A recent study by Active Minds found 80% college students say COVID has negatively impacted their mental health. About 55% say they don't know where to go for support.

To combat this, the Rutgers student government is hoping to partner with Listeners on Call.

When students connect with the mental health hotline, they'll be paired with therapists at subsidized costs, trained listeners who share the same experience that can relate and offer perspective.

Family therapist Darby Fox says while many of us have been impacted by COVID stress, students have been particularly susceptible.

"They can't socialize. They can't do any of the pieces that make an academic world worthwhile," she said.

Fox says it's important to seek out professional help when necessary. She also recommends several techniques to combat stress, including writing down what's bothering you.

"If you write it down, you can make a plan and break it into pieces that you can control and things you can't control," she said.


Experts say another tip if you're struggling is to spend a little bit more time on self-care. That can be reading a book, baking, cooking, exercising or spending time in small groups with your loved ones.

Whatever the activity is, if it brings you joy, it can help calm your nerves.

Fox adds being there for others can also help.

LaBelle agrees. He's championed a fund at Rutgers to provide assistance to students suffering because of the pandemic.

"If students can't eat, they can't learn ... This is a way to effectively use institutional dollars to benefit students most in need," he said.

The fund has already helped 200 students and their families.

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