Wellness and Mental Health in 2020 Online Learning – Inside Higher Ed

As higher education adapts to teaching and learning at a distance, the workload and the learning load of adopting a new delivery mode is taking a huge toll on the lives of those in higher education. This is an immense problem that is growing rapidly. While there are some students who are thriving through online learning, the toll of the virus, isolation, increased workloads and other associated effects are rising among many students, staff and faculty members. It must not be underestimated. Every institution must address these challenges that threaten the well-being of their constituents.

Faculty members are feeling the huge stress of remaking their classes into effective digital forms. The additional workload and concomitant anxiety are heaped upon the already multifaceted responsibilities of faculty. The added load has heightened the concerns over faculty burnout. So many faculty members who already live on the edge of burnout in meeting the teaching, advising, research and publication expectations are facing an emotional letdown or even collapse.

Too often we separate the consideration of mental health from physical health. These two are deeply interrelated. The mental and emotional pressures faculty and students may be experiencing can be expressed in deteriorated physical health. Anxiety and stress can lower immunity, subjecting people to illness, and not just the common cold. People with high levels of self-reported distress are found to be 32 percent more likely to die of cancer; depression has been associated with heart disease. These are not trivial effects. They are