“Counsellors at the university are overbooked with cases that have to do with depression, social anxiety and exam anxiety,” said Raed Mohsen, the university’s dean of students. (See a related article, “Covid-19 Puts New Focus on Arab Youths’ Mental Health Needs.”)
The quality of education suffered worldwide due to the pandemic, Mohsen said. “Students felt that they were not getting what they would like to get in terms of education. The most affected are premed students who have to compete and work hard to get into medical school.”
Creating a Supporting Environment
Saint Joseph University of Beirut, for its part, launched a special initiative called “Rise to Bloom” in the aftermath of the massive explosion last year that devastated a large swath of the city and claimed the lives of more than 200 people. (See a related article, “Beirut Blast Cripples an Educational and Cultural Capital.”)
The programme offers help to students, faculty and staff.
“The idea was to create a positive environment that is supportive to all of us amid the gloomy situation,” said Fady El Chidiac, executive advisor to the university’s president and the person in charge of the programme. “Many students and faculty were directly affected by the blast. They lost relatives, their homes were destroyed, and their parents’ businesses ruined. They had the feeling that they are doomed and have no future in this country.”
“The students’ main problem is uncertainty about their future,” El Chidiac said. “Should they consider leaving the country? Could they pay their college fees? What is going to happen to them? All these questions that they find no answer for.”
The initiative offers physical and mental-health activities to the university’s community and their families, including group discussions, individual counseling, outdoor activities such as hiking, gardening and cherry picking, and yoga and breathing classes.
“We organised speech and inspirational video competitions to empower students and encourage them to pass positive messages of hope and resilience to support each other,” El Chidiac said.
The university also published a students’ “survival kit” providing guidance on how to live through the pandemic and critical times.
‘There Are Plenty of Solutions’
Despite the protracted crises and daily hassles they face, Lebanese students will have the upper hand if they get the right help, according to Daniel, the Lebanese American University student.
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“I want to tell everyone out there, do not let what is happening in the country affect you, do not let the pandemic distress you, there are plenty of solutions to your problems,” he said.