How COVID-19 Has Affected Mental Health for Students

 A concerned student attending a virtual class. Featuring teacher Jessica Webber and her dog Jake. Artwork by Carolina Cuevas.

We are all in a state of defense, anxiety, depression, and anxiousness. 

This pandemic has created a massive change within the Malden community and the world—people are constantly fearing the thought of losing their homes, families, and themselves. Students, in particular, are like birds isolated from the outside world, trying to find ways to change their routines and find the motivation to get up in the morning and get through the day. 

Basma Braer, a Sophomore at Malden High School, said that “for [her] personally [she cannot] socialize with outside families, [so she has] to stay with the same types of people, adding on to that actually being with the same people all the time can be really stressful.” 

Parents have had a close eye trying to keep their children safe, which instills more pressure and stress to students whose parents are less lenient. The fear and thought of obtaining such a virus scares people, not just parents, but also the most vulnerable individuals who are facing underlying illnesses. 

Schools have had a greater impact this year than ever before since students are transitioning from in-person education to remote learning, which is an enormous change. Benjamin Butler, an adjustment counselor at Malden High, stated that “[he is] really worried about students, teenagers in particular because [he thinks] . . . a big part of being a teenager is independence . . . being on your own and being out in the world [and] you guys are just stuck in your rooms, stuck in your houses with your families.” Caitlin Quinn, a guidance counselor at Malden High School, added to this thought, saying that “when [she thinks] about MHS students in general, they are missing out on all the social aspects of school, which is tough. [She thinks about] some of the things that make [school enjoyable], not only academically but socially.” 

The social aspect of school really affects students and their mental health. Meeting new friends, teachers and people influence their teenage years. Since students are stuck at home with family and social media instead of being out in the world, they are being impacted by different scenarios in their head by what other people are doing. As Butler again mentioned, “it sounds to me like depression, you know, it’s like ‘I get up. I get on the screen for three hours and I have lunch and do another two hours and then I go to bed and do the same thing again tomorrow.’” 

Having to get up every day in the morning, knowing that you will do the same thing over and over again can be very draining and overwhelming for students. Depression and anxiety are one of the major mental illnesses that students are facing in this day of age, especially during these extremely exhausting, confusing times. 

Taryn Belowsky, a guidance counselor in Brunelli House, offered that “hopefully, [we have] all been learning positive coping skills or first trying to recognize, ‘hey I’m not in a good mood what does that mean? Do I need to . . . listen to my favorite songs or do I need to exercise more? Or maybe I need to fix my routine for school? Or maybe I need to set myself a schedule?’ So, those are the types of things I hope students and staff are taking advantage of.” 

Students have been responsible for keeping their regime, however, there are days that feel impossible to get through, since teachers are less hands-on. Some students have had a hard time trying to finish assignments while also taking little breaks and making sure they are stable mentally or physically. 

On the other hand, there is still positivity among the students like Billy Zeng, a senior at Malden High, who said, “[he thinks] that . . . throughout the summer and even at home . . . [he] had been able to kind of connect [himself] in several different online ventures.” 

Though students are still in isolation, the school provides extracurricular activities such as clubs that really helped to enhance socialism and boredom. 

Quinn stated that “Another thing [that she thinks] about [Malden High] students is all the insecurities, does the family have enough money? To go by the home they currently live in, there’s food insecurity, especially since it’s getting colder.” The importance of surviving in the duration of this pandemic has been extremely important for many families. Students have had to take part in and responsibilities for themselves and their families. 

Having to worry about the thought of parents or loved ones being hospitalized is one of the most difficult situations a student has to deal with, especially while also balancing out school, their social life, relationships and work. According to adjustment counselor, Benjamin Butler, “in one situation, the parent was hospitalized for a long period of time, and the student had to find an initial job and so this student is trying to manage school and also work, so [it is] very, very challenging.” 

Mentally and emotionally, situations like this can be very draining, especially for young adults who are trying to figure life out. Whether that be in high school, during college, or even after university. Belowsky said “[she thinks] globally, everyone is affected by COVID-19 and [what is] going on, and oftentimes we struggle when we [cannot] control something and so [she thinks] we [do not] really have control over the government, but we can make individual choices,” which is why even during a pandemic people should keep a positive outlook in spite of the situation. 

Not only are students facing COVID-19, but they are also dealing with themselves. Educators in this day in age have been very resilient about giving out assignments, but many of the students, such as Matthew Paraliticci Castano, a Freshman in Malden High, stated that “[he has] been frustrated because [he] had anxiety previously. So [he] just [gets] stressed out sometimes” because he . . . says he is “ losing motivation,” which “[causes himself] to lose motivation even more.” 

Due to the amount of homework some teachers have given students, it has resulted in poor performance in school for some students because of the lack of motivation. Sabrina Gutierrez, a Junior at Malden High, mentioned that “[even] though classes have been easy they still are giving out a lot of homework to do, but again, [it is] difficult to complete with no motivation.” 

Many students have also been pretty distracted, especially since Tiktok, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and other social media platforms have been a great excuse to sidetrack themselves, which then leads to procrastination. Teachers have also had a difficult time engaging students to learn through distance learning due to the inability to see every student participating on the other side of the screen. 

Some students can cope with the present circumstances because they have supportive parents. Although it may not be applicable for every student, having a support system at home is extremely helpful. Especially when the individual is undergoing any mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. Spending less time on social media,  their phones or other devices may affect their encouragement, achievements and work. Taking little breaks even if you are under pressure will help to reconcile your enthusiasm. 

For more information visit the Malden High Social Workers’ Instagram account, click here.

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