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Need for Sexual, Reproductive, and Mental Health Promotion Among Diverse College Students in a COVID-19 Era.

  • Wyatt, Gail
  • Loeb, Tamra
  • Nicholas, Lisa
  • Smith-Clapham, Amber
  • Hamman, Amina
  • Abraham, Misha
  • Scott, Enricka
  • Albarran, Graciela
  • Cooley-Strickland, Michele
Publication Date
Nov 25, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced unprecedented disruptions in higher education operations. While the adverse mental health effects experienced by college students due to these changes are well documented, less is known about the impact on their sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and the reciprocal relationships between SRH and mental health among adolescents and emerging adults. This position paper reviews existing literature on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on SRH, sexual violence, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted illness and human immunodeficiency virus rates and highlights issues specific to college-aged males, females, racial/ethnic and sexual minorities, and individuals with disabilities. The need to conceptualize SRH as an integral component of normal development, overall health, and well-being in the context of COVID-19 is discussed. The need to prioritize the design and implementation of developmentally appropriate, evidence-based SRH interventions specifically targeting college students is identified. Furthermore, an intergenerational approach to SRH that includes parents/caregivers and/or college faculty and staff (e.g., coaches, trainers) could facilitate comprehensive SRH prevention programming that enhances sexual violence prevention training programs currently mandated by many colleges. Policies and programs designed to mitigate adverse pandemic-related exacerbations in negative SRH outcomes are urgently needed and should be included in mainstream clinical psychology, not only focused on preventing unwanted outcomes but also in promoting rewarding interpersonal relationships and overall well-being. Recommendations for clinical psychologists and mental health researchers are made.

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