Pizza and Politics: Mental Health in 2020

On Wednesday, April 21, The Michael O. Leavitt Center For Politics & Public Service held its last Pizza and Politics event where they discussed mental health during 2020.

Leavitt Center Executive Council members Olivia Johnson and Abby Stanworth began the discussion by informing the audience of their right to speak, listen, challenge and learn. This effectively opened the floor for SUU students to actively engage in conversation with each other and with the Leavitt Center’s team members. 

The presentation began with the key terms surrounding the discussion’s topic, which were stress, mental health and long term stress. Presenters then provided coping mechanisms for stress such as exercise, more time spent outdoors and baking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides similar advice for coping with stress. These could be activities that take care of your body and help you unwind. Taking mental health breaks from reading, watching or listening to the news is also important.

Event attendees were asked about how they have coped with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I would go on walks and kind of get lost for a few minutes, sit and take some deep breaths, and think about nothing,” Dani Tebbs, a student at SUU, responded. 

Johnson and Stanworth addressed how school shutdowns throughout 2020 had negative consequences on student’s mental health. 

“By March 24, 2020, more than 55 million students were affected by COVID-related school lockdowns,” Johnson shared with the audience. 

After the shutdowns many students were unable to engage with their friends. This had a drastic effect on students’ mental health. 

Trisha Korioth, a staff writer at AAP News, covered a study completed by the  Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to Korioth, “Results showed recent suicidal ideation was 1.60 and 1.45 times higher in March and July 2020, respectively, than in March and July 2019.”

A corresponding factor for the rise in suicides were the school closures throughout 2020. Johnson and Stanworth asked the audience if schools should be reopened to curtail the incline of suicide. The audience as a whole agreed that schools should be reopened, while those who are at high risk could utilize Zoom.

The presentation concluded with possible ways to seek therapy, offering resources such as the National Suicide Hotline, Crisis Text Line and Counseling and Psychological Services  at SUU. 

Pizza & Politics will continue during the fall semester at The Michael O. Leavitt Center For Politics & Public Service

Story by: Danielle Meuret
Photos courtesy of Danielle Meuret