Combating Loneliness at College

Ryan O'Rourke, IV Leader Reporter

The IVCC Diversity Committee presented a webinar on overcoming loneliness on Jan. 24.

Students, faculty and guests from the public were joined by clinical psychologist Nathaan Demers, vice president and director of Clinical Programs at Grit Digital Health, to discuss the effects loneliness has on students and the programs he worked on to combat it.

“Gen Z is the loneliness living generation on the planet right now,” stated Demers in regards to current college students. He mentioned that in the past year, 60 percent of students reported being very lonely.

He also pointed out that around 74 percent of college students state mental health has impacted their performance in the classroom.

According to Demers, loneliness is “the gap between the relationships one has and one wants.”

He believes loneliness results partly from expectations society creates about college. Media, like the “Pitch Perfect” series depicts college as the best time of a person’s life and creates a myth of the “magical friendship.”

Another issue is how students expect their ideal relationships to happen naturally and enter a cycle of loneliness. They are brought down by failure to easily create these relationships and lose the will to keep trying.

Demers offered several insights to break the cycle. Among them were destroying the myth of the “magical friendship,” handling setbacks with compassion, empowering oneself with tools to try socializing and leveraging one’s environment for interconnections.

Demers began developing You at College to aid students in not only breaking the cycle of loneliness, but also to help them with other issues, such as mental health.

He wanted to create more digestible information on loneliness, mental health and other issues.

He also stated this information was as much for faculty as well. This is so they can better understand how to improve students’ mental health and help them have the most beneficial college experience possible.

Demers closed out the webinar by answering a few questions. In his answers, he emphasized the importance of being more vulnerable, making time for socializing in between workloads and focusing more on face to face interaction.