The U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets may be spread throughout the country due to COVID-19, but many of the resources provided to them at the academy are still available, if in a different form.
Professors are teaching classes digitally as West Point has transitioned to remote learning for the rest of the semester and tutors are still available to help cadets in their classes.
As cadets adjust to the drastic changes that have occurred in the past month, the academy’s Center for Personal Development and the West Point chaplains have also worked to ensure a full range of counseling services are still available to cadets.
“It has been a bit of a change,” Lt. Col. Brian Crandall, the director of the Center for Personal Development, said. “We've quickly adapted like most of us and we use (Microsoft) Teams all the time now. We've allowed cadets from wherever they are in the world to be able to make appointments with us.”
Cadets, like people throughout the world, are adjusting to changes caused by COVID-19 including the social distancing guidelines and widespread closures that have cut off the vast majority of face-to-face contact outside of people’s immediate families. The CPE and chaplains have worked to make sure cadets still have access to mental health resources to help them adjust to the changes.
“We're social beings,” Crandall said. “Most of us, maybe not everybody, function best when we are connected to other people. So, this is a huge stressor on everyone right now -- this disconnect. It is going to take a little more effort to make sure that you're having those social connections.”
The counseling services have also had to adjust, but Crandall and Lt. Col. Donald Carrothers, the Corps of Cadets chaplain, said they have continued offering the full range of services via Teams and over the phone.
“Our message that we pressed out to cadets is, don't suffer in silence,” Carrothers said. “You can still connect with a lot of great helping resources. Our encouragement is not to just be quiet, sit at home and just struggle by yourself. They can still reach out and connect and have some pretty good contact.”
As cadets adjust to life away from West Point, Crandall and Carrothers both said they need to find a way to have balance in their lives and also to maintain a daily routine, even though they have more freedom than they typically would at the academy.
Crandall recommended getting out of bed at a consistent time and planning times for school, fitness, social interaction and fun.
He and the CPD put out seven tips for coping with social distance and recommended cadets and all those who are struggling to set daily goals, pay attention to their environment, think balance, keep their emotions in check, maintain social connections, know themselves and ask for help.
Carrothers added that parents also have the ability to call a chaplain and discuss their cadets’ state of well-being or ask a chaplain to give their son or daughter a call to check-in.
“Parents also need to be kind of tracking the impact of the loss of human connection that they're going through themselves as well,” he said. “The cadets, especially, they've lost this human face-to-face connection with other people, and we can't get it back right now. I think it's just having the awareness that there's going to be some second and third order of emotional impact of not having someone poke their head in the door every morning from your chain of command, saying 'Hey, how you doing today? What's today looking like? You going to be OK? Do you need help?' All of a sudden, that’s not a part of their life.”
Cadets who want to meet with a CPD counselor can still use the same online service to book an appointment or email Natashia Grable at Natashia.grable@WestPoint.edu to set up an appointment. A counselor can also be reached 24/7 at 845-401-8171.