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Colleges Fear Mental Health Crisis Amid Covid Surge

Princeton, where a student died by suicide while studying remotely last spring, has seen a 15 percent increase in demand for services, a record.

“More students were reporting various cases of homesickness, where they really felt kind of lost about not having their parents around,” said Calvin R. Chin, the school’s director of counseling and psychological services.

There is no doubt that missing a large chunk of college has changed the social dynamic on campus, as if students were all Rip Van Winkles, returning from a long slumber.

Josh Nagra went home to lockdown as a freshman at Claremont McKenna College and returned to the California campus this fall as a junior. In that time, he found, everyone had changed, and he could no longer rely on the same friends.

“People came back to college thinking that they had all of these friend groups,” he said, adding, “but you’re now much different people and fully two years older.”

There was a loss of connection, he said.

Students are asking for help. More than 9,000 people signed a petition asking for more mental health services at Saint Louis University. The student government at West Virginia University is asking for state aid. The Domanico family has started a foundation in Eric’s memory. “A year from now we’re going to find out we have a lot more kids with these issues, and we’re not going to know what to do,” Mr. Domanico said.

At Yale, alumni, family and friends of Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum founded Elis for Rachael, trying to influence the university’s mental health policies. The pandemic pushed her over the edge, her mother, Pamela Shaw, said in a phone call from Anchorage. She had tried to convince her daughter to take a gap year until the pandemic receded. “This is not what college is like,” she told her.

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