Students say conflict in Ukraine causing additional mental health issues


According to Iowa State students, while the conflicts in Ukraine seem far away, they are causing stress and anxiety for those on campus. 

Kaitlyn Richardson

Many current headlines, TikToks, memes and news posts are centered around the violent conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

For some Iowa State students, these events have increased normal levels of stress and anxiety and had an overall negative impact on mental health.

“Especially with TikTok and social media, I feel like people kinda like make a light-hearted joke out of it to kind of avoid very real conversations they probably should be having,” Isabelle Dostal, a freshman in political science at Iowa State, said.

Makala Kafer, a freshman in journalism, feels that this sometimes goes beyond just making a joke of factual information.

“I see a lot of stuff on social media about the Russia situation, but I think a lot of it, well some of it really shows what they’re really going through,” Kafer said. “And I think that’s great, but I think some of it too is kind of a fear factor for some things. It’s definitely a problem that’s going on, but some it’s fake and there is a lot of different fake news about the whole situation that I feel like is used to try to scare people.”

Marykate Walling, a junior in communication studies and journalism, finds comfort in ensuring she stays up-to-date and knowledgeable about the events occurring between Russia and Ukraine.

“In a sense, this knowledge has brought me peace because I am aware of what is going on,” Walling said. “I think that I have anxiety, though, because I understand the severity and sometimes fear history will repeat itself.”

Walling, Kafer and Dostal all shared that these events have become a topic of social conversation.

“Many of my friends are not extremely educated on this particular topic,” Walling said. “I have had quick five minute conversations before class with some classmates. All we have all really said is how scary it all is and how gas prices are going to be insane.”

Kafer shared that she and her friends have felt an increase in stress and anxiety because of these events.

“It’s definitely scary to see like another country getting attacked and not knowing like really what’s going on and how it’s going to play out in the future,” Kafer said.

Dostal also feels impacted by the fear of what the attacks could become.

“I think in the back of my mind I always have the stress that it could turn into something more with like the U.S. involved,” Dostal said. “Overall, since the U.S. isn’t really involved right now, it doesn’t really impact me, I feel like.”

For many that feel mentally impacted by the Ukraine and Russia conflict, there are specific fears and possibilities that an individual finds as the root of this stress.

“I fear for the families in participating countries and students studying abroad,” Walling said. “There is always fear of people I know in the military who can get drafted.”

Dostal also mentioned the possibility of nuclear war being a source of fear. Kafer agrees with Walling on the possibility of a draft being one of the biggest stressors.

“I think for me, one of my biggest fears would be our troops getting sent into like actual battles for it just because I know a lot of people that are in the military,” Kafer said. “And there’s somebody that’s very close to me that, they’re not active right now, but they’re somebody that’s still kinda higher up, so they could still get sent away.”

Kafer offered a suggestion for those struggling with the social media aspect that she has found comfort and help in.

“On my social media accounts like Snapchat and TikTok I have started to filter certain stuff out,” Kafer said. “Like you can hold down and put like hide this content. That’s what I’ve been doing just because not all of it’s real, and not all of the news is real that’s on it. Some of those accounts aren’t even real news outlets, so I just filter it out so I don’t have to see it.”

Dostal, Walling and Kafer, among others, have had to find reassurance and ways to cope with the ongoing anxiety and stress that comes with such events.

“Referring to this subject and mental health, if it gives anyone peace of mind, it’ll be okay,” Walling said. “I think that it is really scary, but to try to live life with no fear. It is out of our personal control, and I think living life to the fullest is best.”