NewsGetting Back to School


Supporting, not scolding students to help them better understand the consequences of COVID-19

Posted at 2:09 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 22:49:32-04

PHOENIX — Universities across the country and right here in Arizona are struggling to find a safe balance for students to learn amid the pandemic.

ABC15 has learned that Arizona State University plans on reversing their in-person plans and sending students home after Thanksgiving.

It may make the public feel like pointing the finger at those students who might have been partying and not social distancing.

But an expert from the University of Arizona told our Rebound Arizona team, he does not believe this behavior represents the majority. He is concerned with how this blame game could also be a blow to their mental health.

"It's a very rewarding age group to work with, as they're going through a lot of transformation," explained the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Life Management Counselor Ryan Daily.

Daily is also a licensed therapist who speaks with students about what they are going through. This year, obviously, has brought on even more challenges.

"Think of like going to college as filling your bucket of stress like three-quarter ways up," Daily described. "And then the pandemic is enough to kind of add some more there where it starts to kind of spill over for a lot of students."

Daily said he has conversations with students daily about the difficulty of being isolated in their rooms and sitting on their computer from the early morning to the evening.

"I would say the vast majority are reporting high levels of additional stress," said Daily.

Based on his conversations with students and what he has seen, he does not believe most students should be mixed into images of pandemic partying.

"Those small situations get into the headlines a little bit, or maybe they can get politicized and it makes us think that it's going on more than it really is when that's really not the case," Daily said.

He explained that because of COVID-19, everyone has suffered a loss one way or another and the way a person copes with that loss is not always the same.

"For some people, they react with a lot of like... maybe sadness? A few of us... accept it and move on," Daily said. "But, for a lot of us, we also react with feelings of anger and then also wanting to blame people."

It is important to remember, the decision-making part of the brain does not fully develop until a person turns 25 years old.

That means support from older adults, not scolding, may be more successful in helping students understand the consequences of their actions.

"The best way to support students, first and foremost, is compassion," Daily said. "Just to extend that to them. Especially because they, I think, have felt this sense of this kind of large-scale blame."

Daily said, broad and consistent messaging around being safe, wearing masks, and physically distancing is what the public needs to focus on, instead of finger-pointing.