February 10, 2022

Centenary University says access to counseling and other support measures is critical in helping students to cope with ongoing pandemic-related stress

 HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, Feb. 10, 2022—There’s no doubt: College students are facing an unusually high amount of stress this semester. And it’s not just the winter blues. In a new survey recently released by leading telehealth firm Timely MD, nearly nine out of ten college students report a major mental health crisis across the nation’s college campuses.

Mental health experts at Centenary University point to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is entering its third year, as a significant source of stress for college students. In fact, a  national survey of almost 1,700 students revealed that 70% of college students feel emotional distress and anxiety resulting from the pandemic and 51% say they are more stressed and anxious than last January. In New Jersey, 70% of college students report having a higher level of anxiety than a year ago, according to a study by the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.

College presidents are equally concerned. In a 2021 survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed, 96% of U.S. college and university presidents surveyed said the mental health of students is a top concern, while 94% reported the same of their employees. Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who has studied the effects of stress in the military, said, “There is universal agreement that mental health has to be a top priority on all of our campuses. At Centenary, we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of students seeking counseling support since the beginning of the academic year. While there’s a general call to begin moving on and living with the pandemic, COVID-19 will continue to have long-lasting effects on everyone, including college students.”

Winter is a particularly fraught time for students. Cold and snowy weather restricts many outdoor activities, which has an impact on overall well-being. Mikolaya Nynka, LPC, director of the Centenary University Counseling Center, reported a 24% increase in the number of students seeking services compared to fall 2020: “This winter the Counseling Center is seeing increases in student anxiety, loneliness, depression, and frustration. While COVID-19 accounts for some of this, we are also seeing students impacted by personal traumas and losses. This affects their stress level and ability to function. Getting support and learning the importance of practicing self-care is critical in reducing the potential long-term effects of these stressors.”

Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Kerry Mullins noted that the recent Omicron surge is a reminder that the pandemic will continue to have far-reaching effects. “As we enter the third year of this pandemic, more than half of our current students have experienced their college days with significant COVID-19 restrictions and related stressors such as loss of loved ones, financial strains, and class and social disruptions associated with isolation and quarantine,” Mullins said. “These pandemic-related stressors, coupled with traditional college pressures such as academic rigor and personal challenges, have certainly resulted in an increased toll on the students’ mental health.”

Nynka and Mullins say that colleges need to be proactive about offering a variety of mental health services tailored to student preferences. Nynka explained that while she prefers to see students in person, counseling sessions have been mostly virtual due to COVID-19. The Counseling Center also hosts an online wellness platform, YOU@Centenary, designed to meet the needs of the whole student and tailored specifically to Centenary University and its campus resources. Last semester, the University also invited the Warren County Hope One Initiative to campus. The mobile resource provides lifesaving resources to those struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Mullins added,  “A positive outcome of the pandemic is that it brought mental health to the forefront. As we continue to navigate this pandemic and support each other, it is vital that we not only offer services to support our students, but also that people reach out when they see someone in need. We are all in this together.”

Help is available 24/7 for anyone experiencing mental health, depression, or self-harming issues: Text NJ to 741741 for free crisis support from New Jersey MentalHealth Cares or call NJ Hopeline at 1-855-654-6735.


Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs in Parsippany, as well as online and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.



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