Adolescent Mental Health in a Pandemic
In November, End the Silence—Hanover High’s suicide awareness committee—sent out a school-wide questionnaire in order to survey students about their mental health.
Considering that we are in the midst of an era of political hyperpolarization, racial strife, and economic downfall, as well as a global pandemic (in case you’ve forgotten), to say this is a stressful time would be an understatement. Therefore, End the Silence wanted to assess how our school, faculty, and organizations within the community are working to relieve some of the stress students are facing.
Humans are social beings, and long-term isolation has drastic implications on mental health. Being alone can increase the risk for developing mental illness, and for those already struggling, a lack of socializing can worsen their condition. According to Nih.gov., “an increase in domestic violence and abuse during this pandemic further exposes adolescents to risks of developing mental health problems.” Today’s economic state also has an impact on the mental health of adolescents and adults alike: job cuts have put an additional strain on parents and children, forcing them to look for employment elsewhere and/or make major financial changes.
Uncertainty, sleep problems, fear of getting the virus, loss of loved ones, worries about the future, isolation, trauma, and grief are just some of the mental health issues impacting adolescents due to the pandemic. An ActiveMinds report found that 20% of college students surveyed said that their mental health had significantly worsened under COVID-19, and 80% had experienced some negative impact on their mental health. 38% among all students said that having troubles with focusing on studies or schoolwork was most stressful, and 74% of students reported that maintaining routine was challenged due to the pandemic. A CDC report from earlier this fall found that out of 5,400 people, 25% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 had contemplated suicide in the previous 30 days.
Examining the repercussions of COVID in our own school, nearly 40% of Hanover High School students surveyed said that it was either challenging or very challenging to return to in-person learning, 30% said it was neither challenging nor easy, and 30% said it was either very easy or somewhat easy. Students reported concerns about their “workload,” “staying organized,” and the stress of school work and tests in their transition from online to in-person school.
Fortunately, however, 80% of students reported that they have felt either supported or very supported by their teachers in coming back to school. Respondents also expressed their gratitude for the changes some teachers have made since remote learning in the spring, such as adding breaks during class for mindfulness, clearer organization of class plans and due dates, and being more flexible with extensions and times to meet outside of class.
Looking forward, Hanover students also have some suggestions for remote learning, if we go back: students hope that teachers will continue to provide time to check in individually, and have “zoom discussions instead of lectures so online school is more engaging.”
But what about us? As classmates, friends, and lab-partners, what can we do?
- Watch for warning signs: a decrease in motivation, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, and voluntary self-isolation may indicate a bigger problem. Make sure to recognize these signs in yourself, too.
- Talk it out: just being available to talk to those around you can help to relieve some of their stress and anxiety.
- Take time for yourself: understand that you may need more rest, and make sure to take breaks when necessary. Learn to be kind to yourself, and practice self-forgiveness.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: 741741