Covid-19 affects students’ mental health

2019+graduate%2C+Emily+Kim%2C+created+this+sumi+ink+painting+that+captures+the+academic+stress+of+student+life.

Emily Kim

2019 graduate, Emily Kim, created this sumi ink painting that captures the academic stress of student life.

Ava Dreyer, Co-editor-in-chief

   For the past year and a half, students and faculty have been forced to adjust to a new, atypical school experience because of Covid-19. School was already stressful for students, with hours of homework, pressure from others to fit in and be accepted, seniors experiencing the college application process, and juniors studying for the SAT/ACT. However, now it seems we have a whole other range of topics to worry about on top of everything. Being trapped in our houses for a year had drastic effects on every person in the building, and the overall impact of this time on students’ mental health needs to be acknowledged.

   Quarantine and hybrid school made interactions with other people more difficult, and days seemed extremely repetitive. It was so hard to focus and learn online, and now students and teachers are left to fill in the missing pieces this year to make up for the learning they lost. It is especially hard for juniors who are taking the SAT/ACT because we spent a critical period learning remotely or hybrid, so it is even harder to recall all the topics for these exams.

   Being back in person this year gives us time to form bonds, talk with others, and learn more efficiently, but the transition is also difficult. We went from having mostly half days in school last year to back to our normal hours with extracurriculars this year. It was a big change from having so much free time over the past two years back into the way things used to be, and that adds a whole different level of stress. I feel as though we went back into this year without taking time to acknowledge how crazy and stressful everything has been in the world recently.

   “Kids say they forget how to hang out and talk to people [because we were online for so long]. I think that it has to be acknowledged,” school counselor Paula Gearan said. “The whole school should take a couple pauses a month and do what feels good, and acknowledge it.”

   I think people are underestimating how severe of an impact Covid had on us. A huge part of the learning we do at school isn’t even part of the standard curriculum, but from our experiences and interactions with others. Being online or hybrid made this pretty much impossible. The number of  people with anxiety and depression disorders have skyrocketed, and I think everyone, consciously or subconsciously, has been mentally affected by everything. 

   We have also had to become accustomed to sudden changes in major parts of our lives. We were expected to return to “normal” like nothing happened, even though “normal” doesn’t really feel like that anymore. We still have to think about Covid restrictions, which is hard when all I want to do is have a normal rest of my teenage years. It seems like this pandemic is dragging on and on, which makes everything so much harder.

   Jumping back into a normal school schedule has been difficult. Education is important, but it should not overtake a person’s mental health. I went from having too much time I didn’t know what to do with, to not having enough time to do anything but school and extracurriculars. Too many students are struggling under the pressure and need a break because a good mindset translates to doing and feeling better in the classroom.

   “I think having a strong mental health causes students to enjoy school to the fullest – making strong relationships with friends, clubs, sports, and doing great in school,” junior Neel Sharma said. “However, a bad mentality could cause students to have stress, which could worsen their sleep schedules, study habits, and grades overall.”

   Since the state of a students’ mental health so heavily impacts their educational life, it is crucial that the school makes a strong effort to make everyone feel supported.

   “There are many faculty groups, such as the Guidance Counselors, the Adjustment Counselors, the Health and Wellness department, coaches, teachers and support staff to name some examples,” Gearan said. “[We] work daily to support students’ mental health. Our goal is for every student to have an adult in the building they feel they can turn to when they need support.”

   The school does have resources for mental health, but they are not talked about enough. For example, I didn’t even know Ms. Gearan was the school counselor until I interviewed her for this article. If students don’t know about the help the school provides, it doesn’t really do its job. You can find Ms. Gearan in her room across from the guidance office.

   In addition to making resources more known to students, I also think the school needs to foster a more understanding environment when it comes to mental health. This is even more important now that more people are suffering from mental illness than ever before. It’s hard to talk to a teacher and explain how you are feeling because we still stigmatize mental health so much. Students can feel embarrassed or “over dramatic” when in reality these feelings are totally valid. Fortunately, a club that started last year, called Active Minds, is working to fix this problem by working to destigmatize and change the conversation about mental health in our community.  

   “I still feel as though many students are going unheard or misunderstood when they try to bring up mental health in the school,” Active Minds senior and co-president Sarah Lappi said. “There is always room for improvement and that is what Active Minds is trying to help with.”

   There are many other ways teachers can also help students to cope.  For example, some teachers have been taking time out of class to go on movement breaks, including walks outside on warm days. I think this is so important and is a step in the right direction. Even just a few minutes outside, or giving students time to talk and get to know each other and the teacher, will reduce stress and make the classroom feel like less of a negative environment. 

   While there will always be some stress that comes with school, and with life in general, I think it is important to remember that happiness and one’s well being is always the biggest priority, so we need to come together and make sure that everyone feels understood. Feeling a part of a community is crucial, especially now as people have felt so separate for so long.