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SUNY Potsdam Study Explores the Emotional Unknowns of Unfolding Crisis

April 13, 2020

SUNY Potsdam Psychology Faculty Member Dr. Claire J. Starrs Surveys Campus & Community on Impact of COVID-19

How is the novel coronavirus epidemic impacting your life and emotional well-being, and how are you coping?

SUNY Potsdam Assistant Professor Dr. Claire J. Starrs wants to know. In a new online study, the clinical psychology researcher examines COVID-19 responses and stressors on the campus and surrounding areas, seeking to go beyond anecdotal answers and social media posts.

The study, titled “Resiliency, Psychological Distress & Coping During COVID-19,” is gathering data through a 30 to 40 minute online survey with anonymous responses. Starrs hopes to gain participation from anyone who is 18 and older, and is affiliated with the SUNY Potsdam campus, the Associated Colleges or the local area. All residents of St. Lawrence County are invited to participate. To complete the survey, visit

“The project examines impact on work, studies, finances, how we are coping, and how resilient we are, plus current levels of psychological distress,” Dr Starrs said. “We seem to be seeing a mixture of anxiety, denial and avoidance, on one hand, and at the same time others being more engaged in solidarity, seeking out facts over fake news and wanting to make the experience about learning how we can do better, both individually and collectively.”

To address this issue that is global in scale, Starrs is also conducting a similar study on the international level, in collaboration with colleagues from Yeshiva University in New York City and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Starrs’ Culture, Stress and Coping Lab has examined risk, resiliency, stress and coping among many groups, and offered key research opportunities to SUNY Potsdam psychology students.

This is an exceptional event because it is the first time since World War II where so many people on the planet are experiencing such a potentially life-threatening event as the same time,” Starrs said. “It is a unique moment of collective consciousness. And it is a complex situation with multiple layers of coping and distress. It is unpredictable, and it is the first time that something on this scale has played out in real time on modern media.”

For more information, contact Starrs at

With one of the largest departments on campus, faculty in the SUNY Potsdam Department of Psychology are dedicated to research, as well as teaching. Internship opportunities are available in a variety of areas for students. Knowledge in psychology can be used in almost any career—counseling, research, therapy, medicine, education, social work or human services. To find out more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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