Sierra Martin, Jordan Lancaster, Brooke Writer
Tishra Beeson (Physical Education, School & Public Health)
The continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic has surpassed the year mark and already we are seeing effects of quarantining and social distancing on the mental health of many around the world. One particularly vulnerable population is university students living on rural campuses, as rural towns often have low capacity for care and university students have high rates of mental health issues, leading to a disparity in mental health treatment. Little research has been conducted examining the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of university students, especially as it relates to different genders and coping strategies. Due to the increased stress and anxiety many are feeling during the pandemic, coping strategies have become increasingly important. This study opted to research students attending Central Washington University to better understand the current coping they use and compare them across different gender categories. Results for the quantitative data revealed significant differences in gender identities and differing coping strategies. More specifically, non-binary students were more likely to utilize avoidant coping styles, moreso than the female and male groups. The qualitative research revealed that female respondents were much more likely to request therapy and counseling services, as well as all three gender groups requesting an increase in social interaction. Moreover, it is apparent that mixed-methods designs are needed for this type of research, as the quantitative measure alone did not account for the great need of social support requested by students. Implications, recommendations for future mental health research, and limitations are also identified.
Keywords: Gender identity, COVID-19 pandemic, coping strategies