THe Pandemic's Negative Toll On Students' Mental Health

March 27th, 2021. By Jacan Tovar '23

As we are all aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has displayed various challenges to all sectors of society. COVID-19 has not only had the potential to degrade one’s physical health, but it is also a virus responsible for numerous reports of low self-esteem and poor states of mental health. A specific party that has been especially challenged by this is the education system, more specifically students. This article gouges into the pandemic’s negative toll on the mental health of high school and college students.

The past year has presented tribulations for everyone; however, teenagers and young adults are among those hit hardest by mental health concerns. With the temporary closure of educational institutes worldwide, students have faced a rather difficult transition from a physical learning environment to a virtual one. This has only created disruptions to students’ “normal” daily schedules.

According to UNESCO, during the month of March of last year, more than 1.5 billion learners—about 90% of enrolled learners have been affected by the closure of educational institutions. In addition, resulting in a disconnection from the classroom, friends, extracurricular activities, and school staff members. Prior to the pandemic, staff members, such as counselors, provided students with a safe place for life’s daily stresses, advice, assistance in coping with specific emotions, and reinforcing self-esteem and well-being. As a result, the disconnection of these crucial relationships has resulted in increasing numbers of suicide, depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental health complications.

A study of 5,400 people, conducted by the CDC reported that 25% of respondents between the ages of 18 to 24 had contemplated suicide in the previous 30 days—that is 1 in 4 people! Similarly, a nonprofit organization called Active Minds reported in a recent survey that 80% of students have experienced some type of negative impact on their mental health due to the pandemic. A whopping 20% said their mental health has significantly worsened. These numbers exemplify the harsh realities that this pandemic has imposed on students’ lives and their mental status. To justify this even further, Jennifer Rothamn, the senior manager of youth and young adult initiatives at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mentions that the hotline has experienced an increased rate of phone calls in the span of a couple of months. Rothamn says, “We’re hearing more calls about anxiety, a lot of stress and depression.” Furthermore, recent studies have proven that extended periods of social isolation can significantly increase a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risks of stroke, and association with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Social isolation has intercepted the harmonial waves of students’ traditional lives, leading to ponderous questions, such as “When will school reopen?” or “When will everything go back to normal?”

As we descend deeper into this pandemic, it may seem as if there is no end; on the contrary, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the new COVID-19 vaccines, new opportunities have arisen, and doors that had been closed are now once again open. Educational institutes, not only on a national level have started to reopen with hybrid learning, but internationally. This is one factor that will aid in mitigating poor mental status because students need socialization—it is crucial for survival. Counselors and other staff members have become a more vital and demanded figure for students. To assist and provide for students’ mental health and well-being, counselors and other staff members have provided students with sessions via social media, phone calls, and other video calling platforms.